RCSD students now eligible for Wi-Fi hotspots through 2022

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — For families in the Rochester City School District who are looking for a boost in internet connection, Monday was the first day they could be eligible to do just that.

The district says families can now apply to take home a free Wi-Fi hotspot for every RCSD in the household. RCSD says the hotspots will give students 50 gigabytes of data through June 30, 2022, courtesy of donations made by partners to the school district.

The devices provide more data than the previous 10-gigabyte MiFi pads that were given throughout the district’s hybrid and remote learning plans.

“When we were in COVID closure it was 100% remote, but we want to be able to continue to extend the school day even when we come back face-to-face,” said RCSD’s Chief Technology Officer Glen VanDewater.

After a year of COVID, VanDewater says the district has learned a lesson or two about the importance of ensuring reliable digital educational access to children.

“Prior to COVID closure, we were giving away hot spots that had 10-gigabytes of data. However, when we went into closure, 10-gigabytes just wasn’t enough, so now these devices have 50-gigabytes of data,” VanDewater said.

The district says if multiple hotspots are requested for students, all will be delivered to the homeschool designated in the form. The designated homeschool will then notify families when the hotspots arrive.

Education experts like Stephanie Townsend at ROC the Future commend the district’s efforts and say that a year of remote learning highlighted a much larger issue at hand.

“You cannot have a 21st-century education without internet access, so students – all students – need access to online materials. They need to be able to submit digital assignments, do Google searches… everything,” said Stephanie Townsend, Ph.D., director of research and analytics at ROC The Future.

Townsend says the importance of internet access goes beyond just educational purposes.

“This isn’t only about the schooling itself and doing assignments, it’s also about other ways that the internet supports students’ well-being, for example, children don’t have equal healthcare access if their families don’t have internet access,” she said.

The addition of 3,500 mobile hot spots to the 10,000 already available leaves the district ready for any educational setting, but everyone is hoping for the best.

“We’re looking forward to bringing our kids back to in-person instruction this fall,” VanDewater said.

Requests can be made by filling out this form. A Spanish language form is also available.

The district is offering a variety of summer learning programs and plans to have students back full-time in the fall. However, the district will also be offering a 100% remote option.