ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Local school officials in Minnesota have found workarounds for students without access to high-speed internet at home as the state fights the spread of the coronavirus with school closures.
Minnesota school closures began Wednesday through Friday, March 27.
Merritt Elementary, which is part of Mountain Iron-buhl Public Schools district, sent students home with worksheet packets, so they wouldn’t have to rely on the internet to do school work.
“We have many pockets here with no internet,” said Dr. Reggie Engebritson, superintendent of schools for Mountain Iron-Buhl and St. Louis County. “I think many people assume everybody has it and we don’t.”
Louis Parenteau and his family do not have access to internet in their northern Minnesota home. They face tough decisions about who can get online with both of his sons home full time.
“We basically have to use a hotspot from our (cellphone) service and it is limited,” Parenteau said.
Steve Giorgi, executive director of the Range Association for Municipalities and Schools, said hundreds of families on the Iron Range don’t have internet. The organization advocates at the state legislature for broadband funding and expansion.
“Part of it is geography,” Giorgi said. “The cost is three to four times higher than in southern Minnesota.”
Virginia Public Schools will allow students without internet access to park outside the high school, connect to its network and complete assignments.
“This is not normal, what we’re doing. But it’s one of those things, you do what you got to do, so the kids and the parents can get Wi-Fi,” said Dr. Noel Schmidt, superintendent of Virginia Minnesota Public Schools.
Governor Walz proposed an additional $30 million in grant money for expansion. But last week that funding was reallocated from his supplemental budget to be used towards containing the virus.
Officials have also closed restaurants and bars across the country as coronavirus fears rise.
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