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Midvale Journal

Canyons partnership with Comcast allows students new way to connect, bridge digital divide

Nov 09, 2020 01:56PM ● By Julie Slama

Chromebooks are often the device Canyons School District students use to connect with teachers online. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This past spring, Canyons School District’s partnership with T-Mobile allowed students to connect their devices with hot spots during the soft closure of schools in response to COVID-19 pandemic.

“During COVID, during our soft dismal, we bought an additional 250 more so we actually delivered up to 800 hot spots to our families,” said District director of information technology Scot McCombs. 

Running parallel to those hot spots, Canyons School District recently partnered with Utah State Board of Education and with the help of Canyons Education Foundation, there will be a roll out of Comcast’s internet essentials program that will allow students a wired connection for a faster-speed internet service.

McCombs said that the Comcast partnership will provide service at 25 meg per second at a cost to the District of $10 per month. For the T-Mobile hot spots, it’s 15 meg per second at $20 per month. 

He estimates that about 1,200 students can take advantage of this service. It has yet to be decided if the service will be available during summer months.

“We’re going to add this Comcast internet essentials as another option. It will be for those who can prove financial need, and then the hot spots will be our filler. So, if a kiddo is traveling between Mom’s and Dad’s house…we’re not going to be able to get Comcast to both homes so a hot spot may be the better case,” he said. “We’re trying to put the right tool in place for the family.”

While both are serving students and their families who are in financial need, McCombs said that T-Mobile allows the district or principals to define what financial need is while Comcast requires proof, such as families who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

“With the hot spots, the families don’t have to bring a W-2. The principals, based on the relationships they have with the students, can determine the need,” McCombs said, adding that “Is the financial need now based on the family being out of work based on COVID and that may not show up on a W-2.”

Last year, McCombs met with every principal in the district to decide how to bridge the digital divide. About 550 devices were then distributed to be used as a home computer for those with economic needs.

Brighton Principal Tom Sherwood recently received a shipment of Chromebooks to enable his school to check out a device to every student.

“Should students have access to the internet at home?” he questioned. “I think it’s unfair to those who don’t have it and we need to provide the device that can give them access to bridge the achievement gap.”