State officials will need help with Wi-Fi project
Setting up more than 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots throughout West Virginia will not be easy, particularly because the project needs to be completed within a month. State officials and technicians will need all the help they can get.
They should turn to the 55 county school systems for aid and, just as important, advice.
Mountain State public schools are slated to reopen on Sept. 8. Most boards of education seem to have adopted a mixed-scheduling philosophy, with students attending classes two or three days a week. On other days, they will be expected to learn remotely, probably via the internet.
Some school systems are permitting parents to opt out of in-person classes for their children entirely. They will be given the option of staying out of school, at least until the COVID-19 epidemic is under control.
Gov. Jim Justice wants “total optionality” on attendance. Any parent worried about sending his or her children to school should be able to keep them home, he believes.
But many homes in our state lack access to the internet. In order to alleviate the problem, Justice plans to spend $6 million to set up more than 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in schools, libraries, state parks and other places where they can allow many homes to access the internet.
Precisely where the hotspots are to go has not been revealed, probably because not all siting decisions have been made.
Good. Each county school district should be consulted on that. Educators in the counties know far more than state officials about where internet dead spots are. They know where students who need internet access live. They have ideas on where hotspots can be placed for maximum benefit.
And most counties have information technology specialists who could assist with the work of installing hotspots.
Justice’s plan will not solve all the access challenges. It is an excellent start, however. Getting the most bang for the six million bucks will require help from school systems.