With schools continuing to lean more on technology, students without access to the internet at home are left at a greater disadvantage. Sarasota County is attempting to close the gap for its students who don’t have reliable internet by offering hotspot access.
“When students don’t have reliable access to the internet, it puts them at a disadvantage for doing research, getting their homework done and even submitting their homework. The internet is like the library of the days that I went to school,” said Mark Pritchett, president/CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.
“If you can’t help these students get access to the internet so they can do all these three things, then it's our duty as a community to help these students find a way to get access.”
The project is a partnership between Gulf Coast Community Foundation, The Sarasota County School District, and Sprint’s 1Million Project Foundation. That national initiative aims to help one million low-income high school students across the country by providing students with free high-speed internet at home.
“The purpose of this initiative is to provide students that can’t afford reliable access to the internet an opportunity to get a hotspot so that they can actually do research and submit their homework over the internet, which is a standard practice now for most schools,” said Pritchett.
During the project, Sprint will provide over 850 wireless hotspots to students selected by the district. Eighth graders are the primary focus of the initiative, with their hotspots lasting through their time in high school.
Sarasota County school officials and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation recognized a need to level the playing field for students that lacked internet access. This project provided them the opportunity to do so.
“We were able to identify a gap and a resource to fill that gap and it's been a great partnership between all three of us,” said Pritchett.
The project is expected to be implemented at the start of the next school year this August.