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Edison expanding access with broadband funding

HAMMONDSVILLE — The Edison Local School District is expanding internet access beyond its buildings to help students learn after receiving $150,981 in BroadbandOhio Connectivity funds.

District Technology Coordinator Rachel Granatir said the allocation will extend wireless capabilities outside of Edison High School, John Gregg Elementary and Stanton Elementary and ultimately into the community so students may gain access to work on assignments. The district currently yields 1,382 students, of which 280 are remote learners, but all of them will benefit from the upgrade.

“We are expanding our network infrastructure at all three buildings by adding external wireless access points,” she said. “These will flood our parking lots and grassy areas with Wi-Fi so students can visit the buildings after hours to easily connect and complete their work. The grant will pay for the equipment, wiring and labor to install them.”

Granatir added that Wi-Fi will also be installed in the district’s entire fleet of 17 buses to provide access so students can complete work while traveling to and from school, as well as give Edison the ability to park the buses in various locations throughout the vastly rural community should the district transition to fully remote learning. In that instance, parents can drive to the sites and connect the student devices to them.

“We are also looking to partner with local internet access providers to bring public parking lot access to various locations throughout the district,” she continued. “We will be reaching out to local churches, businesses and villages to identify locations where we can get internet access and then place an outdoor antenna. One internet service provider we have spoken to is Access Ohio Valley, which provides wireless internet access on towers around a large portion of our school district.”

She said all of the district’s PreK-12 students are assigned a 1-to-1 device with Wi-Fi capabilities, but broadband infrastructure is limited in the area. Despite the challenges, teachers are diligently working to create a digital classroom experience that is seamless for both face-to-face and remote learners.

“In the event that we go to a hybrid or completely virtual learning environment, our students are prepared to continue learning with their teacher in Google Classroom with digital resources,” Granatir added. “While students might have internet access, it can be unreliable at times. Students may be using a DSL on rural phone lines that is very slow, a satellite connection with data caps, Wi-Fi hotspots with limited or unreliable signals or a cable connection with limitations. For some students, internet access is not affordable or simply unavailable where they live. By utilizing these grant funds, we will provide convenient, local locations for our students to access their digital classrooms and continue that seamless learning environment.”

She said the grant budget has been finalized and Edison has received 60 percent of the funds it requested, and now officials are ordering the necessary equipment to complete the project. The upgrade will occur soon since funding must be expended by the end of December.

“We want to be prepared to support our students as best we can with local broadband access outside of the school building in the event we implement our hybrid or virtual learning plans,” Granatir commented. Edison Superintendent Bill Beattie said the project will definitely help students who live in remote areas and are impacted by a lack of internet access.

“We are very excited to get the BroadbandOhio Connectivity grant. It will allow us to do a lot of tech support for our students who live in the outlying areas, and also in areas that are limited in connectivity,” Beattie said. “The hot spots on our buses will allow our students to do homework or online assignments on the bus ride home, especially for those students who are on the bus for 45 to 60 minutes.”

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