by Marissa Lorenz
West Grand School District (WGSD) is partnering with Visionary Broadband to provide high speed internet services to district students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to the concern over the Coronavirus epidemic, West Grand schools have not met in-person since before the regularly scheduled Spring Break vacation. By the Tuesday following the anticipated return from break, they had been in contact with families to pass on remote learning assignments and plans. Among the early efforts to maintain as much contact and ongoing instruction as possible, the District sent a survey out to families, asking about their technology access and capabilities. The District immediately started supplying Chromebooks to those students who needed hardware and hot-spots for families that either did not have internet or had inadequate internet to meet the needs of parents working at home and children streaming classes and meetings online, according to Jimi Poindexter, Technology Director of WGSD.
Poindexter explains, however, that there were some early issues in acquiring the needed number of hotspots, and so he contacted Aaron Macarelli of Visionary, a telecommunications company which specializes in providing wireless high-speed internet to mountain communities across the Rocky Mountain region,
and which has been serving Kremmling customers since August of last year. “They came up with the perfect solution to help us out,” Poindexter says. Visionary has offered discounted pricing to the District for contract-free service and the District, in turn, is covering all installation and monthly costs for qualifying families.
“Participating families will not see a bill for anything,” the systems administrator stresses.
Visionary staff were just as excited about the opportunity.
“Providing internet service to displaced students is at the top of our priority list,” Macarelli stated. “As a dad of two teens myself, I can’t imagine remote learning without this crucial resource. Doing our part and being in the thick of response with the communities we serve means showing up to make these installs happen quickly. Being a community partner is a core value of our company.”
One family that has benefited is that of Kremmling librarian Emily Pedersen. “We’re a family who chooses not to have internet at home,” Pedersen explains. “We were scrambling to figure out how to make this learning work.” And while they could utilize internet provided at other locations, she says, “It is more comfortable to be in our own home. The kids take lots of breaks and aren’t schooling all day long. This program has allowed us to not worry about how to access assignments and to meet with teachers and peers. It has been a real blessing for the kids to see their classmates and teachers.”
Poindexter feels that survey response was “pretty good” and, to date, about nine families have qualified for the services. “We’ve really prioritized students,” he states, but recognizes that some other staff may qualify for the program.
The State performed a similar Colorado School District Needs Inventory in early April. With 91 percent of districts responding, they determined that tech supports were the second highest reported student need, after emotional support, with an “immediate need for hardware, software and connectivity solutions.” But they also found that at-risk students had been the least likely to respond to district contacts and that nearly a quarter of districts felt least prepared
to support those at-risk kids.
Upcoming Broadband vote:
As our community is reminded of the importance of quality and accessible internet, it may also be attentive to an upcoming vote on the issue. On May 5 the Kremmling Memorial Hospital District will hold a vote for new board members and to opt out of Colorado Senate Bill 152, a 2005 bill which restricts the ability of government entities to provide broadband services, including high-speed Internet, telecommunication, and cable services. Since the bill’s passage, a majority of Colorado governments have voted to opt-out of the restrictions, including Grand County and the Town of Kremmling.
The Hospital District, a taxing district, will hold a similar vote in May. As of right now, voting will take place in-person at the Wellness Center. Election organizer Rhonda Shearer reassures that the state has not asked for changes to polling places, but is encouraging social-distancing and safe practices, which will be followed closely by the Hospital District.
For more information
on the WGSD-Visionary technology partnership, contact Mr. Poindexter at TechSupport@ WGSD.us. To learn more about Visionary and their services, go to www.VCN.com. For more about SB152 and what it means to the Hospital District, contact email@example.com.
by Marissa Lorenz