The County of Monroe is teaming with ESL Federal Credit Union, Greater Rochester Health Foundation and Rochester Area Community Foundation on a solution to improve internet connectivity to help more students actively participate in their lessons throughout the school day.
Officials noted that the pandemic uncovered gaps in technology for students in the city of Rochester. Local and national foundations and other organizations responded quickly to ensure city students had laptop computers, tablets and devices to provide internet connections into the homes of students who needed them.
But the continuation of remote learning this fall has brought about another issue: Hotspot devices have not provided enough speed or consistent connection required for effective online learning.
“I am extremely grateful for the generosity and innovative spirit of our partners who are helping to ensure that our students receive the best education possible during a global pandemic,” said RCSD Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small in a statement. “For many of us, having reliable internet access is a given. For many of our students, getting this access will not only help with their education, it also brings them to a more equitable playing field.”
T-Mobile’s Project 10Million will donate 2,900 mobile hotspots to be distributed to RCSD students in kindergarten through high school who do not have reliable internet connections.
Monroe County has committed to using up to $175,000 of the federal CARES Act money to cover the $43,000 monthly connectivity costs for those devices through Dec. 31. The organizations will work together to coordinate among other area philanthropies to support the purchase of additional mobile hotspots for up to 2,000 more students. The county also will cover the $32,000 monthly unlimited data charges for the devices for November and December.
Local funders have committed to contributing and raising additional resources to continue to pay the $83,000 monthly unlimited data charges for all of the new hotspots through summer school.
“The collaborative work being done in our community across public, private and nonprofit sectors to address the critical needs of families during this pandemic is the exact kind of regional collaboration we need to solve Greater Rochester’s challenges,” said ESL Vice President/Director, Community Impact Ajamu Kitwana. “The collaboration between Monroe County and the city school district has motivated us to match the county’s funding as a show of deep support for that partnership.”
With ESL paying for two months of internet connectivity and GRHF and RACF committing to each pay for a month, that leaves four monthly bills not covered. ESL will help close that gap by matching additional contributions up to $350,000. United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. has offered $25,000 toward that effort.
“As we continue to navigate this unprecedented pandemic, we need to work together to ensure our students have the resources they need to learn and succeed. This is no small task,” said County Executive Adam Bello. “Thanks to the support of our community partners we’re able to ensure that RCSD students will have reliable WiFi for the rest of the school year.”