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 Original article can be found at The Daily Reporter.

Randy M. Cauthron; April 6, 2020

Local business issuing challenge to help with Wi-Fi issue

The COVID-19 extended spring break for Spencer Community Schools students comes to an end Monday, April 13, when the district will begin providing online classes in an effort to reengage students “in the classroom” in a manner of speaking.

“While teachers have been in contact with students since schools have closed and provided them with learning opportunities, we will formally begin on April 13,” Spencer Schools Superintendent Terry Hemann said. “This will be through online systems that students, parents, and staff are already familiar with. We will also be offering a more traditional approach with packets for younger grades and for those who might not have internet access at this time.”

Returning to the classroom, albeit online, is not without its challenges according to the superintendent, as the district is charged with turning its traditional in-facility instructional model into a laptop friendly study program.

“A major challenge has been educational access for all,” Hemann said. “We have families without internet access, students with special needs who need accommodations for their learning, and we also have students who are not proficient with the English language.

He added, “Also, turning our educational system from a face-to-face system to an online/remote system is very difficult to do without to being able to meet. All of our planning is being done through online meetings and email.”

To help overcome the internet access issue, the district has ordered between 75 and 100 Kajeet Hotspots which will be provided to students without internet access. While they have been ordered they will not arrive for another week or possibly two.

Community Insurance in Spencer stepped up immediately to help offset the expense to the district for the hotspot, purchasing 10 of the devices.

“We have been asking around to various entities to determine how we can do our part,” said Alison Simpson, a former district employee, who now works aside her husband Scott, operating Community Insurance. “We reached out to Terry Hemann to see if there were any needs that the school was facing, and he let us know about the need for many students across the district to gain access to Wi-Fi. We knew that we wanted to support this opportunity so that all students have the same opportunity to learn while the district will be providing mandatory online learning during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Simpson asked other businesses in the community to join them by donating towards the hotspots which come with the standard school approved filtering and security.

“We are asking other businesses to join this effort by donating the cost of the Wi-Fi mobile hotspots, allowing all students the opportunity to continue their learning during this crisis,” she said. “Businesses may do so by emailing support@spencerschools.org. The need is urgent, as formal online learning started this week.”

“We are fortunate to have both SMU and IGL working to provide internet access at several locations around the community,” Hemann said. “Once these sites are up and running, students and families will be able to go to these sights and access the internet from their vehicles. Information on these sights will be coming out in the next few days.

The superintendent added, “We want to thank Community Insurance, SMU and IGL for stepping up to help in the effort to provide learning for all students. We need more partners to make this happen.”

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