Last fall, the City of South Bend, enFocus and the South Bend Community School Corporation partnered to provide internet access to students during the pandemic. Now, leaders say more than 1,700 of the district’s students are connected.
City officials say about 30 percent of South Bend residents don’t have adequate broadband access, which comes out to about 3,500 students who may struggle to participate in e-learning.
Gillian Shaw, director of research and development at enFocus, said the Citywide Classroom program has connected about half of those students since October by providing free home internet packages and mobile WiFi hotspots.
“We believe that accessing learning is a student’s right, not a student’s privilege," Shaw said. "While we’ve been able to reach over 1,700 students so far, we know that we still have a lot more to do.”
To reach the remaining students, access to the program is expanding. Previously, school administrators determined which students could benefit most from the program. Now, any student who qualifies for free or reduced lunch can apply online.
Shaw said families without internet access can still call their school administrators to apply. The initiative aims to connect as many students as possible before the end of the school year.
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