CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – After the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual learning became a common tool for school districts when in-person classes could not meet. But for some school districts, that isn’t an option.
The Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District (CFAUSD) operates within more than 200 square miles, and with such a large area comes challenges, especially with internet access.
“Due to the number of students in the state of Wisconsin that live in rural settings, it is quite challenging to deliver electronic education to those students as a result of the inaccess they have throughout the state,” Jeff Holmes, CFAUSD Superintendent said.
Scott Marty, the director of educational technology at CFAUSD agreed.
“We’re very concerned with being able to provide an educational experience that is the same for all of our students across the district, so when we have families that do not have Internet access or that we aren’t able to assist with hotspots, for example, it obviously provides a gap in education,” Marty said.
The gap in those resources is what United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley calls a digital divide.
“What that means is those with Internet access will have greater opportunities for school homework, online drivers education, being able to connect to the Internet on snow days when you might not be able to come in-person to school,” Amber Scharenbroch, Community Impact Director – Digital Equity for United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley said.
To help combat this digital divide, Marty said the district has been working to increase internet access.
“A lot of the telecom companies in the area have reached out to me. They have been able to apply for more grants at the state level in order to expand their services to more of the rural areas,” Marty said. “As they have reached out to me, I’ve been able to provide them with letters of support so the state bodies are able to see this is a need in our area.”
Marty said the district held informational meetings for families who could get a discount on internet services through the Affordable Connectivity Program as well. He said they plan to have additional meetings in the future.