Internet Access for Kentucky K-12 Students
Kentucky's K-12 public education system is the pioneer and national leader in most aspects of education technology, so we are in a much better position and better prepared for telecommuting, virtual operations, virtual resources, virtual meetings and cloud-based services than the other 49 states. Although we've been doing all of these things for more than a decade, we are far from perfect and are still learning.
All 172 of Kentucky's school districts are connected by high-speed, high-quality, reliable fibered internet service. All schools also have dense Wi-Fi within each school building. Kentucky was the first state to have all of this in place for every school district in their state.
If a public school district doesn't already have Wi-Fi available for its students in the school's parking lots or football stadium, they can easily take the existing Wi-Fi devices and extend them to areas on the campus located outside the school building by extending and placing the existing wireless access points closer to the school's interior windows. This allows students to access the internet for school-related work at an exterior location on the campus. Keep in mind, Kentucky has had non-traditional instructional (NTI) days for more than a decade, so a high percentage of our districts already are doing this. KDE's Office of Education Technology field staff is working with all superintendents and their education technology leadership to ensure they are aware of this way to offer internet access, quickly and inexpensively, to their students.
Below is a note and Facebook post sent out from Marshall County to their students as an example of messaging that can be used with your students and parents:
Marshall note to parents:
"All Marshall County Schools have internet access in the parking lots. If you do not have internet at home and your student needs to access the internet for school assignments, feel free to come to your school's parking lot and access the network. We ask that you please stay in your car and practice social distancing."
One Marshall principal posted on Facebook:
"We are happy to announce we have a Wi-Fi hotspot set up in our school parking lot. Please park in the area in front of the gym lobby. This should permit you access to our Wi-Fi so your child can pull up information for his/her classes. All schools in our district will be offering similar areas in their parking lots as well. We just ask that you continue to practice social distancing by staying in your car and using the Wi-Fi from your vehicle."
Kenucky's public school students also can use their smartphones with data plans to do school-related work outside of the school campus. While 89% percent of all of Kentucky's 3rd- to 12th-graders have a smartphone with a data plan, that number goes up to close to 99% for the state's middle and high school students. This pdf has discount opportunities for internet and/or hotspot connections to your home.
Internet Access for Adults
During these times of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is not safe or recommended to have large groups of people in a K-12 school parking lot or anywhere on campus for long periods of time. For safety and security purposes, we also don't want people hanging out in school parking lots during the late evening and early morning hours, such as from midnight to 6 a.m. We want to avoid putting any Kentuckians at risk of illness or personal harm by creating a meeting place that significantly increases the probabilities of the spread of COVID-19.
There are other significant issues beyond COVID-19 as to why this should not be done, including that it would take lots of school resources to monitor, manage and support all the adults in their parking lots for long periods of time. This would take time away from the staff from being able to adequately support the district's students and teachers. However, there are some much better, more appropriate and safer options for adults of all ages to use the Internet:
- Similar to high school and middle school students, a high percentage of adults already have a mobile smartphone with a data plan, which allows them to access the internet from the comfort of their home. You also can buy a hotspot service with your cell phone that can allow multiple computers in close proximity of the Smartphone to get on the internet at the same time regardless of where you are.
- If there is not a wired, last mile internet service available for your home and you don't think one will be there soon, Kentucky adults can buy a hotspot device with last mile internet service from a variety of telephone and cable companies. This hotspot device and service works without a smartphone and are capable of reaching 99% of the homes in the state and can be used immediately after purchase. Multiple computers and Smartphones within a home can use this Wi-Fi service at the same time. Spectrum cable is one of many companies that can provide mobile hotspot services that an adult can use. Although hotspot devices typically cost money, Spectrum has announced that it is going to offer free hotspots throughout their communities. From their website, you can see that unlimited internet access is available across a wide swath of the state.
- For college students that can't or don't get access to the internet, Kentucky's higher education institutions may provide Wi-Fi resources for adult college students from certain areas of their campus. There is a Kentucky Community and Technical College System location within a 30-minute drive of 95% of all Kentuckians.
- Another option would be to ask public libraries, county clerk offices and public health departments in every county to bring their Wi-Fi devices closer to their windows so adults outside of their building could get access to their Wi-Fi. However, these groups are likely to have similar safety concerns in regard to not wanting to create and encourage folks to congregate close together outside their buildings to use their Wi-Fi.
- There are restaurants (e.g., McDonalds, Wendy's, Panera Bread, Jimmy Johns, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, Arby's Dunkin Donuts, Chick-Fil-A, etc.) that allow anyone to use their Wi-Fi internet service within and outside their buildings that may still be open and available if an adult can't get access to the internet from any of the other options.
Office of Education Technology
300 Sower Blvd., 4th Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-2020 ext. 2446
Fax (502) 564-1519