WASHINGTON COUNTY, Pa. (KDKA) – As many school districts make the move to continue remote learning this fall, a number of districts in southwestern Pennsylvania don’t have the capabilities to do it.
“We discovered that so many families, not only don’t have internet access, they don’t even have a cellular signal,” said Setrak Haroutounian.
Haroutounian is the academic coordinator at McGuffey School District.
“In the spring, we had one group of students who are getting all their learning through Google Classroom and internet-based activities. And the other group, we were literally having to provide packets of information for them,” Haroutounian said.
Haroutounian told KDKA that the district immediately started a broadband task force to address the problem as the coronavirus pandemic continues. In a district-wide survey, the problem was clear.
“For 88 percent of the respondents, they felt they needed better internet access and 96 percent said they felt it was their local government officials jobs to facilitate that broadband connection,” Haroutounian said.
The task force has come up with some temporary fixes. In the spring, the district drove WiFi hotspots to different areas to help students with internet troubles. But administrators are looking to legislators for a long-term solution.
“We knew when we took this on it was like moving a mountain. There is no easy fix, one size fits all and you snap your fingers and everyone has broadband,” said Rep. Pam Snyder.
Snyder has been working to provide better broadband to rural communities for years. She said there are several pieces of legislation in Harrisburg and funding options that could help get better access for these families. But it’s just the beginning.
“That’s expensive. It’s just not cost-effective for a lot of these companies to go out there and do that. So we need to find a way for companies to be able to do that” Snyder said.
Snyder’s advice to parents is to be patient and know that school districts are doing their best to provide a good education to students during the pandemic.