Education

Woodstock District 200 students receive free internet, hot spots too

‘Providing students who now have limited opportunities with better access to online learning platforms can only further their educational potential,’ superintendent says

Woodstock School District students receive internet connectivity devices Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, as a part of T-Mobile's Project 10Million at  Prairiewood Elementary School in Woodstock.

About 3,000 Woodstock School District 200 students across 12 schools received free internet and mobile hot spots in an effort to bridge the learning gap for students because of the increase in remote learning, district officials said.

The devices and internet were provided by T-Mobile through its Project 10Million and Hometown Techover contest, which Woodstock was announced the inaugural winner of in September.

The program was conceived as a way to bridge the technology gap, T-Mobile said in a news release, and while District 200 thinks the devices and internet will help kids do better in school, they’re focused more on the learning gaps created during the COVID-19 pandemic and remote learning, district spokesman Kevin Lyons said.

Some of the connectivity issues students encounter are a product of geography, for example, for students who live in more rural areas outside of Woodstock, Lyons said.

One of the families who is going to receive a hot spot was Qudaneeda Stephenson’s. She’s the parent of two Woodstock students.

Most of the homework her children have to do is online, and so she said the device will be very helpful for her family.

Stephenson currently has in-home Wi-Fi for her family but said she will consider using the hot spot as a resource full time.

“I’ll be pretty much just see how it goes before I determined to if I want to [keep the Wi-Fi],” Stephenson said.

Woodstock School District students receive internet connectivity devices Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, as a part of T-Mobile's Project 10Million at  Prairiewood Elementary School in Woodstock.

District 200 will receive $3 million in technology upgrades, including a $200,000 grant, 5G network enhancements, a Little League baseball refurbishment and access to T-Mobile’s connectivity resources according to the T-Mobile news release.

Through the Project 10Million program, 2,000 students will receive up to 100 gigabytes of high-speed data per month, T-Mobile said in a news release. Another 1,000 students will receive enough unlimited high speed data to ensure they have enough to complete homework.

Devices will be provided to students who’ve had connectivity issues in their home. Schools in the district helped identify students by sending out an email to students’ families asking if they wanted to opt-in to this program, Lyons said.

High school seniors in particular were provided the devices to continue their college application process and just stay connected to the internet, Lyons said. The service will be provided through Dec. 31, 2022.

The Wi-Fi hot spots were given to high school students over the past few weeks and now are being distributed to elementary school students. Eligible students also will have access to low-cost laptops and tablets, according to the T-Mobile news release.

“Keeping our kids connected is of immediate benefit as modern education, and all of society, has become so intertwined with technology. Providing students who now have limited opportunities with better access to online learning platforms can only further their educational potential,” Superintendent Mike Moan said in a news release.