Nevada COVID-19 Task Force Chair Jim Murren and Nevada State Board of Education President Elaine Wynn announced a new program Wednesday in collaboration with state organizations to bridge the digital divide for students.
The program, “Connecting Kids,” is described as a “statewide community coalition” that will work to ensure all Nevada students have equal access to virtual learning for the start of the 2020-2021 school year and comes on the heels of schools reopening for the fall. Other organizations involved with the effort include Communities in Schools Nevada and the Public Education Foundation.
“Every child deserves equal access to virtual learning and as a state it is crucial that we all band together to eliminate the technology gap among students who do not have access to a computer or internet connection,” Wynn stated in a press release. “With the support of every segment of our communities, we can achieve this goal and ensure that every student across the entire state of Nevada is online and connected to their school.”
The effort will begin with the Clark County School District (CCSD) and expand into other districts across the state, according to the announcement. A partnership between the Family Support Center and Cox Communications has been established to connect every qualified CCSD student to the internet.
Wynn said the Family Support Center is funded by the COVID-19 Task Force, which raised $4 million in late March. She added that CCSD is responsible for subsidizing internet connectivity and devices for qualified students.
The announcement also stated that efforts have been established outside of the state’s largest school district, but doesn’t specify them, and encourages families living outside of Clark County to contact school administrators or visit the program’s website for additional information.
The website currently shares information for Clark and Humboldt counties.
“Our rural areas have diverse challenges,” Wynn said in an email to The Nevada Independent when prompted about how the organization will guarantee access for students in rural areas. “Hot spots are the alternative for families who cannot access hard-wired connectivity.”
She also noted the organization first needs to better understand the needs of students across the state before it can provide the necessary devices and resources.
“The first step to solving the connectivity gap is to know which students need our help,” Wynn said. “That’s why we are tracking connectivity down to the individual student level, and it’s critical that every family fill out the technology survey, even if they are already connected.”