PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)–Students across Bay County are wrapping up their second week of remote learning and the district is now trying to make this transition a little bit easier. The district purchased 600 Wi-Fi hotspots and should be ready to distribute them on Monday.
This action is all in an effort to improve remote learning. While remote learning and internet access seem to go hand in hand, many students lack high-speed internet.
“We have probably about 10,000 Chromebooks out there right now but all those students that have those Chromebooks do not necessarily have internet,” said Superintendent Bill Husfelt.
The district quickly found a solution, leading them to purchase 600 hotspots from T-Mobile and Verizon.
“One of the things that our half-cent sales tax, and thanks to the community for the half-cent sales tax, allows us to do is technology projects like this,” Husfelt said.
The Instructional Technology and Media Services Department has been hard at work setting up the hotspots and getting them ready for student use.
Students in need of a device are directed to contact their respective principal.
“The principal has the list and they are sending the list to our technology team that’s putting them together and getting them back to the principal who will then distribute them to the families that need them,” Husfelt said.
With many parents working from home and trying to also use the internet, adequate internet access can be a struggle.
“It can be frustrating as a parent because, during peak times, we have to alternate who’s using what,” said Ilea Faircloth, a parent, and Principal of Hiland Park Elementary.
The district hopes the hotspots make learning easier as well as keep the students engaged.
“No situation of distance learning can replace what a classroom does. This is just again trying to help fill that void of not having that teacher in that home with that student,” Husfelt said.
While students can still learn via paper instruction, some students thrive off of virtual learning.
“With the social isolation and distancing that we’re all facing right now as a society, being able to interact with someone virtually and just seeing someone’s face, there’s a lot to say for that,” Faircloth said.
Husfelt says the project cost around $200,000. He says they hope to eventually apply for grants to cover some of the costs.