UNION TWP. — During Wednesday’s virtual meeting, Northwest Area Superintendent Joseph Long told the School Board the district is working to help students without internet access learn remotely through a system called “data casting.”
Data casting uses radio waves to broadcast data. Long said once in place the system can help students in rural areas with no internet get some access to their lessons when learning remotely.
“They could log in and download everything,” he said, adding that “it’s not the internet, but would give access to needed material.”
Remote learning has been a problem nationwide for students in areas with no broadband access. The sharp increase in remote learning thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the digital divide often overlooked nationwide. While most people enjoy easy access on desktops, laptops or smart phones, students in remote areas are frequently under-served when it comes to internet availability. Located in the lightly-populated and hilly forests of Luzerne County’s northwest corner, The district may be feeling the divide more acutely than others.
Long said the district is continuing to offer three options to students: Hybrid learning with one group in class while the other learns live online, learning at home full time live, and learning at home with asynchronous lessons provided with the help of a third party company.
The voting session of the meeting was relatively brief. The board approved an agreement with Rural Health to provide dental services at a cost of $6.75 per exam, and an agreement with Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Service, Inc., for prevention/education services at a cost of $2,000.
Long pointed out that is half the cost last year. The change was made because the district taught extensively in remote mode this fall, so the services won’t begin until January.
And the board voted to move to Phase 3, the design and permitting, of the Primary School water system improvements. The plan is to provide continuous chlorination options with the installation of new tanks, a new well pump, new pressure tanks, piping and controls. Phase 3 is being done at no cost to the district. Estimated cost for the work is $18,500.
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