In today’s education landscape it is imperative that students have access to a fast and reliable internet connection to be able to fully engage in their learning activities. The pandemic highlighted this, and the need for access has only grown greater. Not all learning takes place in the classroom, so not only does the internet need to be fast and reliable, but it needs to be available to the student even when they are not on the school campus. To that end, GaDOE’s K12 Connectivity program is working to ensure students have fast, reliable internet access, both in the classroom and off campus, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Current State of K12 Connectivity
In the classroom
The GaDOE provides 200MBPS for each of our K12 public schools. This capacity is provided at no cost to the districts, as the state pays for the service with a combination of state funds, Governor’s Emergency Relief Funds (GEER) and Erate funds from the FCC.
On campus outside of Classroom
The GaDOE has installed external WIFI antennas to extend broadband signal for our K12 public school campuses. This was funded with a GEER grant from the Governor’s office.
Off campus (after school and at home)
One of the most persistent challenges in K-12 education is ensuring that students have access to the internet when they are not on campus. To address this challenge, the GaDOE is worked with LEAs to distribute hot spots with data plans to eligible students. Through the GaDOE program and the districts use of the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund over 144,000 hot spots with data plans were deployed to students.
Increase school internet capacity
To meet the continual demand for more internet capacity, the GaDOE is currently working with the Peachnet team from the Board of Regents to increase broadband capacity from 200MBPS to 400MBPS in every K-12 school in Georgia. We expect this upgrade will be rolled out to
districts beginning in January 2023. Like the current 200MBPS per school, this additional capacity will also be free of charge to the district.
Affordable Connectivity Program
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which is administered by the Federal Communications Commission, provides eligible households with a $30 monthly subsidy for broadband service and a one time, $100 credit to procure a computing device.
This program has the potential to provide long term solutions to decrease the digital divide and homework gap that many of our students face, but student's parents need to be aware of the program and able to apply for the credit. School districts are the best positioned group to help in this process as they have the best access and the most trusted relationship with parents.
But, not every school district has the staff to take on another task so the GaDOE has contracted with Technology & Energy (CTC) to offer services we could provide to districts to assist with this task. Districts can choose to receive as many of these services as they would like, and all are at no cost to the district.
1. CTC parental outreach
- CTC’s call center will call eligible families to let them know about the ACP, encourage them to sign up, and answer questions families may have about the application process.
- Districts who select this option will be expected to undertake the following tasks to help increase the success of CTC’s outreach efforts:
- Districts will need to provide the GaDOE and CTC with phone numbers for families with at least one student participating in the Free and Reduced School Lunch Program.
- Districts will need to need to work with CTC to ensure their families are aware of CTC outreach efforts through social media campaigns, text message campaigns, or email outreach. Sample emails, text messages, and social media posts will be provided by CTC.
- Districts who select this option should be heavily encouraged to also select option 2, as these efforts are complementary.
- The GaDOE and CTC will establish an ACP support hotline which interested families can call to get information about the ACP or support with the application process.
- This support line will be staffed by the CTC call center.
- This is a great option for districts who have concerns about CTC’s call center performing direct outreach to their parents.
- Districts who select this option will be expected to inform their families about the ACP support hotline and encourage them to utilize it through social media campaigns, text message campaigns, or email outreach. Sample emails, text messages, and social media posts for informing families will be provided by CTC.
3. District parental outreach
- Districts who select this option will be responsible for conducting outreach to families using their own staff. While GaDOE and CTC will provide these districts with sample outreach scripts, emails, text messages, etc., district staff will be responsible for undertaking the outreach.
- However, districts selecting this option will still be able to ask GaDOE and CTC to track new ACP enrollments to help them gauge the success of their outreach efforts.
- It is recommended that districts selecting this option also select option 4, as they would likely need to train their staff; however, they may choose not to do so and undertake the entire effort on their own.
4. ACP training workshop for district staff
- GaDOE and CTC will hold workshops with district staff to answer any questions they have about the ACP. These workshops will also demonstrate to staff how they can best assist families in signing up for the program.
- The workshops will also help districts identify which families are eligible for the ACP and how to track new ACP enrollments for their district.
- The workshop will also give examples of actions the district could take to promote the ACP such as social media campaigns, texting, calling, etc.
5. ACP workshop for families
- GaDOE and CTC will hold workshops with families to answer any questions they may have about program or the application process. CTC can even walk families through a sample application during this call.
- Districts who select this option will be expected to promote the workshop among their families.
6. Third-party ACP outreach
- GaDOE and CTC will help districts partner with local organizations like library systems, Boys & Girls Clubs, the United Way, etc. to encourage families to sign up for the ACP.
- This is a good option for districts who do not feel comfortable with CTC’s call center reaching out to families directly but lack the capacity to undertake the outreach effort themselves.
- Districts selecting this option will need to provide GaDOE and CTC with a list of potential partner organizations, including contact information. While CTC can help facilitate conversations with these organization, the districts will ultimately be responsible for ensuring the partnership is successful.
- Districts selecting this option will still be able to ask GaDOE and CTC to track new ACP enrollments to help them gauge the success of their outreach efforts.