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Tackling a digital divide: RCSD high school students get Chromebooks, free home internet

June 11, 2019 07:12 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Next year, every high school student in the Rochester City School District will have access to a Chromebook and free internet access at home.

It's a massive undertaking by the school district in an effort to close the poverty and technology gap the students face. Starting this fall, 9th to 12th-grade students who don't already have reliable internet service will get what they call a MiFi device to take home and 10 gigs of data to use per month.  

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The school district believes at least 40 percent of its high school students do not currently have access to the internet at home.  

"The reality is the digital divide is what we really fear," said Dan Lowengard, interim superintendent. 

The city school district already has the Chromebooks. Students have been using them in school.

"We didn't want to create a bigger divide by allowing our kids to take them home when maybe half of them have access to it," Annmarie Lehner, director of technology at Rochester schools. 

But now, they've found a partner in the 1 Million Project. The Sprint-sponsored foundation will provide MiFi devices and home internet access to those who need it.

Malik Hill is only a 7th grader but he's already looking forward to taking his Chromebook at home.  

"You're able to make up all your assignments that you missed or if you missed a couple of days, then all the assignments will be inside google classroom at home, so you're caught up on it," said Hill. 

Everyone in the home will be allowed to connect to the provided internet device and in a city where one in every three families live in poverty, the hope is it will not only help the kids but their parents.  

"This initiative closes the casim, that huge gap that exists that can make a difference between finding a job and not finding a job, getting educated and not getting educated," said Rochester Board of Education President Van White. 

Parents and students will have to sign an agreement with the district promising to take care of the equipment.

The Chromebook itself will have the same restrictions on it as that school computers do as far as the websites that can be accessed using it. 

WHECTV

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