The Harrisburg School District is bringing free Internet access to students and their families through a new partnership with Tri County Community Action.
About 1,500 families will be given free access through next August, according to the district. For many families, this is necessary as the district announced recently that all students will begin the school year virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This timely partnership is a tremendous step toward closing the digital divide […],” Acting Superintendent Chris Celmer said. “With the generous support of Tri County Community Action, this partnership helps to make significant progress toward equitable technological access.”
Funding for the $160,000 connectivity initiative will come through Tri County Community Action’s Community Services Block Grant, as well as federal CARES Act funding.
“One of the best ways to disrupt and permanently break the cycle of poverty is through education and investing in our youth,” Tri County Executive Director Jennifer Wintermyer said. “Tri County Community Action is thankful to be part of the solution, and we are committed to working in partnership with the Harrisburg School District to meet the educational needs of children.”
According to Celmer, 84% of district students in the city come from families that are considered low-income or economically disadvantaged. This program will help close the digital divide, he said.
In a spring survey, the district found that three out of 10 students had questionable internet access to support online schooling, Celmer said. He added that the gap has closed slightly since then, but it’s still an issue for many families.
“Our priority is those families who have absolutely no access,” Celmer said.
The program will provide in-home Comcast Internet Essentials Services, Verizon Hot Spot access and Xfinity Wi-Fi Hot Spots at designated business and outdoor locations. Families do not have to be Xfinity Internet subscribers to access this, and it will be provided at no cost, according to the district.
More details on how to apply for the free wi-fi will come next week, Celmer said.
For more information and updates on the Connectivity Partnership, visit the Harrisburg School District’s website.