By Stefanie Jackson – The majority of Accomack students are attending school in person five days a week for the first time since COVID-19 hit in March 2020, but Accomack County Public Schools is continuing its work to ensure its students get the internet access they need at home to complete their schoolwork.
Technology Services Coordinator Jack Bowden updated the school board Nov. 16 about the Accomack schools Wi-Fi hotspot program, which provides free hotspots to qualifying households of Accomack students (those with no internet access).
In July, ACPS applied to purchase 400 Wi-Fi hotspots through the American Rescue Plan’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, which is run by the Federal Communications Commission and administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company.
The application was approved in September, and the devices were ordered in October and received this month, Bowden said.
There is a limit of one hotspot per household, and the home must have a Verizon wireless account with 4G mobile broadband service and unlimited data. The hotspots are compatible only with Verizon, Bowden noted.
If a parent is unsure if their wireless service is compatible with the device, he or she may take one home, and if it doesn’t work, the parent must return the device within 45 days.
The hotspots are ready to go and have been tagged and entered into the ACPS inventory management system.
Setup is simple. After a battery is installed and the device is turned on, it will pick up a cellular signal and begin downloading setup data.
The Emergency Connectivity Fund will cover the cost of the hotspots and one year of service, which began Nov. 21.
Bowden told the school board that if ACPS wants to continue to offer the hotspot service to students after one year, the school division must pay $15 a month per device – that’s $6,000 a month or $72,000 a year for 400 devices.
After the first year, ACPS will not be bound by a contract and may continue the service on a month-to-month basis.
Bowden has inquired about receiving service only from September to June, when school is in session, but he has not yet received a response.