Thousands of KCK students to receive internet connectivity at home

More than 6,000 Kansas City, Kansas, students will be able to connect to school through the internet at home with a program approved Tuesday night during a Zoom meeting.

The Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education approved a program that will provide connection for students who currently are having problems getting online for their lessons. The district is holding remote classes this semester. The internet connection will be paid for with CARES Act funding, according to district officials.

Spectrum will be the provider for this broadband project. Rashid Hoda of the school district said they have identified about 6,600 of the students who do not have broadband internet connections at home.

Students and the district will not have to pay for the program, which has an estimated cost of just under $600,000, but with the additional cost of technicians to help install it, would be about $800,000, according to Spectrum officials. The program will go through Dec. 30, which is the end date that this group of federal CARES Act funds can be spent.

Dr. Val Winn, a board member, said she hoped that the program could be extended past Dec. 30 if possible, with grant funding either from additional federal allocations or from donors. After the program expires, it would cost $29.99 a month per household, according to company officials.

The board heard a letter from a staff member at Emerson Elementary School about technology and connection issues the students were facing at the start of school. One of the biggest problems is some of the wi-fi hotspots the district had provided for students had very little capacity and connectivity, according to the letter. Other problems included the lack of technical support and computer skills, the letter stated.

The Spectrum connections are not expected to take place until mid-October, according to company officials.

Until then, the board approved another plan that will let district students with known internet connectivity problems make appointments to come into nearby schools and connect to the internet in multipurpose rooms where socially distanced tables have been set up for them. It is only for those students who already have connectivity problems, according to Dr. Alicia Miguel, interim superintendent.

These would not be classroom sessions, according to Dr. Miguel, and teachers would not be there. She said the students could be there around two hours, enough time to watch any assigned videos and to download assignments that they can work on at home.

These will be by appointment only, approved by the principal, and a parent or adult will have to accompany each student, according to school officials. Everyone will wear masks, and temperatures will be taken at the building entrance.

“We thought this would be a small step to remove one of the challenges,” Dr. Miguel said.

This was approved, with board member Yolanda Clark voting no, saying she had some more questions before she could completely support it.

The board also approved the Y Academy Partnership proposal, that would let the YMCA provide a remote learning place for some students.

The proposal is to use Bethel Elementary School, which has been replaced this year by the Brune Elementary School, as a site for a Y supervised program where students could receive child care under supervision, with access to technology for their lessons.

After questions from board member Wanda Brownlee Paige, Dr. Miguel agreed that the first slots in the child care program should go to children of essential workers in the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools.

There are 80 slots proposed in the program, according to Y officials. They said there could be a possibility of more added later, or other locations added.

YMCA officials explained they are doing similar programs in school districts around the area. The YMCA would subcontract to 15 to 20 employees, with five to 10 district employees included, who would work with the Y in the program, according to Y officials.

Dr. Winn voted no on the proposal because she felt the project was not specific enough, and other things had been included in it that weren’t part of the original proposal. She had questioned a YMCA statement about including day care for the children of other essential workers here, not just the KCK school district’s employees.

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