CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cuyahoga County Council committee on Tuesday approved $1.5 million to provide thousands of internet hotspots and computers to students to support distance-learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
The plan is intended help bridge the digital divide that often hampers low-income students and has been intensified by the pandemic as more services — and schooling — are available mostly online.
If approved by the full Council, the money would come from the county’s share of federal coronavirus aid. That money would be coupled with an additional $1.5 million from the Cleveland Foundation and a partnership with nonprofit PCs for People.
The $3 million plan would provide up to 5,000 internet hotspots, two years’ worth of unlimited data and up to 10,000 laptops to school children, Chief Innovation Officer Catherine Tkachyk told the committee.
Distribution would begin at the end of August, in time for the upcoming school year, she said.
The plan aims to provide internet hotspots via TMobile’s EmpowerED program to families with K-12 students enrolled in public or charter schools within Cuyahoga County, Tkachyk said.
PCs for People, which refurbishes old and donated computers, would serve as distributor. Libraries could also serve as distribution centers, Tkachyk said.
The program would focus on students and families in inner-ring suburbs, though it is available countywide and participation is not contingent on income, Tkachyk said.
The program is also intended to serve as a way to bridge the digital divide among the students’ parents and families, as the hotspots provide unlimited data and can serve multiple users, Tkachyk said.
The plan is focused on suburban students because Cleveland Metropolitan Schools is working on its own plan — which includes a $1 million contribution from The George Gund Foundation — to bring 10,000 hotspots to its students, Tkachyk told cleveland.com after the meeting.
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