WINDSOR (WBNG) — In many parts of the Southern Tier high speed internet is pretty easy to come by, but travel into the hills of eastern Broome County, and it’s a whole different ballgame.
For students learning from home, that can mean major challenges.
Cassie Robinson is a parent in the Windsor Central School District, living on Blatchley Rd. There, students in grades 6-12 split time learning part at home and part in the classroom, or they can choose to be fully remote. Robinson says her daughter is struggling to keep up in part because of poor internet connection in the area.
“I have a fourteen year old and she was on high honor roll, and if not then honor roll and she is no longer on either one,” Robinson says. “When she’s in class it lags so far that by the time she’s able to ask a question the teacher has already moved on to the next thing.”
Robinson isn’t alone in her concerns. Marcia Colwell also has kids in the Windsor School District, and her daughter is in a similar situation to Robinson’s.
“I’m seeing her grades drastically drop, not being in school and not having the internet and that social connection,” she say.
For their part, the district is going out of their way to address the problem, putting grant funding from the American Federation of Teachers into finding their own solutions.
“Our district has purchased more than a hundred hot spots for those kids to try and make the signal as strong as they can so they can interact with the teachers,” says Scott Symons, a member of the Windsor Teachers Association who donated the grant money.
Cowell says the hotspots help, but only so much.
“It only works in one specific window if the wind is blowing the right way,” she says.
Robinson meanwhile says even the hot spot won’t work at her house.
At the high school, Symons stresses that he recognizes the hot spots are not a complete fix, and says the issue makes things more difficult on both students and teachers.
“If we’re going to use the internet in schools across America, then it’s an absolute need for parents and students to have internet in their house” he says.
Robinson says while she realizes that the district and local leaders are working to address the issue and multiple companies have looked into running cables, so far it’s not enough.
“I do feel that it’s the school and the governments issue that they need to take seriously. Is it more about where you live as to weather your kids receive an education? Where do you go from there?” she asks.
Congressman Anthony Brindisi’s office says they have made it a point to address the issue of broadband connectivity across the 22nd Congressional District. They said Brindisi has taken action by pushing for billions in funding for the FCC’s E-Rate program to help schools provide technology to students for distance learning while fighting for aid to help schools support distance learning.
The Congressman himself weighed in saying in part:
“I am fighting to increase investments in broadband infrastructure, boost competition among internet service providers, and hold cable companies accountable. I am calling on Congress to act now to help these struggling families.”
At the state level, Empire State Development says they are doing their best to address the problem.
“The Broadband Office has invested over $11 million in Broome County, $2.41 million in the Town of Windsor, and $1.37 million in the Village of Windsor. In total, those investments catalyzed $18.4 million in public and private broadband investment in Broome County,” said spokesperson Kristin Devoe, adding that over 98 percent of homes in New York have access to high speed broadband.
12 News reached out to the Broome County Executive’s Office, they have yet to get back to us.
Robinson says she’d still like more to be done. She’s specifically urging them to consider broadening the list of companies the state is willing to give funding to in order to run cables, citing past ventures in the area that have fallen through. Until then, she says the steady drumbeat of calls to local officials will continue.
Robinson says she’s particularly concerned that as the pandemic worsens, school will once again be fully online and her kids will be left behind as a result.
“If they have to go back online then the other kids in town are still on course, they’re still online learning everyday and our kids will be at home with no way to learn.”
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