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Safely Back to School: Study finds 1 out of 15 students in Indiana don't have internet access

If Your Wi-Fi At Home Is Slow, It Could Be Your Neighbor’s Fault
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-31 06:52:29-04

Safely Back to School is a new initiative from RTV6 to help empower parents, students and educators to make decisions based on facts to safely return to the classroom. Click here for more stories and resources.

MUNCIE — According to a new Ball State study, up to 85,000 students in Indiana do not have internet access at home.

With schools returning this week, utilizing e-learning, this can be detrimental to thousands of students’ education.

“We are six months into this and we haven’t thought through how some of this is going to work,” said Michael Hicks, the Ball State Director for the Center of Business and Economic Research. “And I think we are at risk at leaving a substantial share of Hoosier children behind.”

Hicks calls internet and Wi-Fi disparities among students one of the most compelling public policy problems of 2020.

“We are talking here 6.5 percent — one out of every 15 or 16 kids — who have nothing,” Hicks said. “They don’t have any broadband, any Internet access, no nothing.”

As students are already returning to school this week, Indianapolis Public Schools, the largest district in the state, voted just last night to begin the school year entirely virtual and says its deploying devices to their students over the next two weeks to ensure everyone has what they need to access learning.

“We are a one to one district now so every student K-2 will be supplied with an iPad. Grades 3-12 will be supplied with a Chromebook,” says Aleesia Johnson, the IPS superintendent. “We’ve ordered MiFis for families who have that need.”

The Ball State study found the up to 85,000 students with no internet access live in rural places where broadband is less available, and urban areas like Indianapolis.

“I do think it’s going to require the state general assembly looking at how they can deploy broadband, how we allow communities to help subsidize that and at the same time, and this is a much more urgent problem because schools are starting today and next week around the state, is to find an alternative location for kids to go to school,” Hicks said. “We have empty big box stores that can be converted into learning centers where Wi-Fi can be provided, where children can be socially distanced and there could be adult supervision.”

Hicks says, knowing losing every 1 out of 15 kids to online access means they might not be able to catch up.

“And that’s really I think the worry we have," Hicks said. "This is a problem then that will be still plaguing our economy decades from now if we don’t find a solution to that educational problem right now this fall during this time.”

For more information on remote learning resources in Indiana, click here.