Expanding internet access for Washington Schools | News

MABTON, WA – “If there is anything positive about a pandemic, it’s that it woke us up to this need,” said Joey Castilleja, Superintendent of the Mabton School District.

Internet access, seems like everyone should have it right? Washington Senator Patty Murray thinks so too.

“In 2022 it is just past time that we think about high-speed internet like we do running water or electricity, we all have to have it,” said Senator Patty Murray, (D) Washington.

She helped pass the bipartisan infrastructure investment and jobs act that originally tied into HB 2414 – 2019 -20. The infrastructure deal includes $65 billion investment to help families in Washington and across the country access reliable, high-speed internet.

Washington will get $100 million helping more than 241,000 people who don’t have access to the internet. 

“Recently my office announced 96 million dollars in American rescue plan funding for more than 200 Washington State school districts and libraries all over our state including in Snohomish, Yakima, and Grays Harbor county,” said Senator Murray.

One of our local school districts said they struggled at the beginning of the pandemic with a lack of resources.

“The digital divide and the dream of someday going one to one with devices was exactly that for us, a dream prior to the pandemic,” said Castilleja. “So when the pandemic did hit, it was, we were in emergency mode just for the sheer fact that we weren’t prepared for that.”

The Mabton School District Superintendent said 98% of the schools are Latino, 44% of the families are English language learning, and 94% of the families are low-income.

So, having the funds to help made a big difference.

“We added 600 chrome books to our fleet and that actually put a computer in front of every single child all the way down to preschool,” said Castilleja.

They were also able to add 600 hotspots, that can even be used on busses.

The superintendent says because of the funds, if they ever have to go back to online learning, they are prepared.

“We have kids that spend 45 minutes to an hour on a school bus going home so there’s internet access and on the surface that’s one piece to it but the other piece they can do is if we ever have to go remote again,” said Castilleja. “We can strategically park school buses in certain neighborhoods and that access would be available to help families that way.”

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