Oct. 30, 2020
The partnership between the South Bend Community School Corporation, City of South Bend, and local nonprofit enFocus to expand internet access for students in our community has announced the start of outreach efforts to connect students across the district with WiFi hotspots and at-home internet packages.
The program, called Citywide Classroom South Bend, was recently piloted with the South Bend Empowerment Zone Schools and Washington High School. During the pilot, approximately 100 hotspots and 50 at-home internet subscriptions were distributed.
“Through our pilot, we have worked through some necessary infrastructure planning and logistics requirements,” said Patrick Stalvey, Chief Technology Officer for South Bend Community School Corporation. “We are now rolling out our phased distribution approach to reach those with the greatest need first.”
“The South Bend Empowerment Zone is grateful for this partnership which aligns with our core values of students and families first, equity, and excellence and ensures that our families on the westside of South Bend have tangible resources to address historically persistent inequities,” said Isaias Solis, Director of Student and School Supports for the South Bend Empowerment Zone. “There is still much work but this partnership through the Citywide Classroom Program highlights the power of what we can accomplish together to better serve our community and provide internet access to entire households, not just students.”
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau suggests that 30 percent of South Bend’s households lack home internet access. The $1.8 million provided through the Governors Emergency Education Relief grant will allow the Citywide Classroom South Bend partnership to distribute more than 2,200 at-home internet packages and 2,000 WiFi hotspots to students in South Bend.
“This year has shown us all how crucial at-home Internet access is for 21st century learning and economic resiliency,” said South Bend’s Chief Innovation Officer Denise Linn Riedl. “The Citywide Classroom South Bend partnership is an excellent step in bridging our local digital divide and addressing educational equity.”
The distribution of at-home connectivity options is intended to increase online attendance during days when students must learn from home.
“Next week, we are launching Phase 1 of distribution. By the end of this year, we will connect to up to 3500 households, many with two or more students per household. The anticipated impact on student attendance and therefore, student learning, is enormous,” said Gillian Shaw, enFocus Program Director of Research and Development.
As the program expands throughout the SBCSC district, families that lack internet access can contact administrators at their student’s school to inquire about eligibility to receive equipment.
To find out more about the initiative and the phased implementation plan, visit www.citywideclassroomsb.org.