Broadband internet access key for Central Virginia students returning to school virtually in the fall

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Access to reliable internet is key to success in 2020. Think about how often we rely on the internet for either work or recreation.

With area schools getting ready to return virtually this fall, the topic of virtual learning and the availability of broadband access has become increasingly important.

The Virginia Tech Center for Innovative Technology offers a mapping tool that allows users to see where the Commonwealth is lacking broadband internet access. According to this map, many students in Central Virginia don’t have the internet needed for virtual learning.

This issue came to light earlier this year when the coronavirus pandemic began.

“When this happened on March 13 and school closed, we did not have devices for our Pre-K, first and second grade students,” said Petersburg City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin.

Petersburg secured additional funding for the school system to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots, giving students what they need for the upcoming school year.

“Very often we might have some type of a hotspot on our phone, for example, but that does not give us the broadband, high-speed internet that you need for instruction,” added Superintendent Pitre-Martin.

Goochland County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Raley understands the issue of low quality internet.

“In Goochland, we estimate that approximately 25 percent of our families do not have access to reliable high-speed internet,” said Superintendent Raley. “It creates some challenges for us from a planning standpoint and ultimately our goal with my recommendation is that we provide accommodations for those families who need to access their instructional program with reliable high-speed internet.”

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