Local elementary and high schools will receive nearly $450,000 in federal funds to help improve internet connectivity and learning opportunities for students at home, according to Congressman Jimmy Panetta’s office.
The funds are part of a $14.9 million package for the 20th U.S. Congressional District, from the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund Program (ECF), says a press release from Panetta’s office.
The ECF program was created as part of the American Rescue Plan, which helps schools and libraries ensure that students can reliably connect to the internet at their homes, allowing them to take advantage of online learning and complete their homework.
The Hollister Elementary School District received $363,671 from the ECF, and the San Benito High School District received $84,810, says the press release.
“This is an instrumental step to closing the homework gap and elevating those with limited access to information,” said Krystal Lomanto, San Benito County Superintendent of Schools. “The San Benito County Office of Education looks forward to seeing how this fund can make differences in students’ lives and additional steps for ongoing support in this very important aspect of education.”
For eligible schools, the ECF program will cover “reasonable costs” of laptop and tablet computers, wi-fi hotspots, routers and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use by students, school staff and library patrons.
“Although the pandemic highlighted the digital divide for many of our students locally, it allowed the federal government to step up and provide the funding necessary for kids to access the internet in many of our communities,” Panetta said. “This critical funding from the American Rescue Plan will help students on the Central Coast get and stay connected so they can get their work done. I look forward to continuing to work with our superintendents in each county to get them this funding and get our students online.”
Eighteen unified, elementary and high school districts in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties received the $14.9 million in ECF funds available to the 20th district.