The Iowa Department of Education confirmed that school districts can apply for emergency relief funds to pay for school bus Wi-Fi routers, in an attempt to close the digital divide between students with internet connections and those without during virtual learning.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced last month the availability of the funds earmarked for internet connectivity for the new school year. The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund funnels $19.3 million to the state’s 327 school districts and nonpublic schools. Nearly $7 million is available for colleges and universities.
An Iowa Department of Education spokeswoman confirmed for School Transportation News on Thursday that K-12 schools may use the money to purchase the technology needed to convert school buses into Wi-Fi hotspots for students without internet access.
A press release issued last month indicates that each school district’s award amount is based on the estimated number of households that lack internet access or struggle to afford it. Allocations are based on a survey the state conducted in June as well as information from the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau.
“This is an important step toward ensuring our students and teachers have reliable access to the internet,” commented Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education. “In an increasingly technology-driven world, it is essential that we overcome the digital divide.”
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