Broadband education grants awarded across the state

By: - September 16, 2020 12:30 am

Amesville Elementary in the Federal Hocking School District. Photo from district website.

School districts across Ohio have more money to spend on technology improvements after $50 million in broadband connectivity grants were awarded by the state.

The grant money comes from federal CARES Act distribution and is an attempt to help school districts as many of them are starting either completely or partially virtual.

School districts and facilities were eligible to apply for the grants after identifying groups who would benefit from increased technology.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, these groups included economically disadvantaged students including those eligible for the department’s free lunch program, students with chronic conditions, students defined as “vulnerable” children and youth by the ODE and students without other access to internet services.

Grants were awarded to 951 schools. 

Awards ranged from about about $1,000 for schools like Arlington Local School District in Hancock County, Hamilton County’s educational service center, and Constellation Schools in Northeast Ohio, to more than $151,000 for schools like Girard City School District in Trumbull County, Franklin County’s Reynoldsburg City Schools, Lucas County’s Springfield Local School District and Federal Hocking Local School District in Athens County. 

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said in a press conference announcing the awards that schools who requested less than $20,000 would get their entire amount if eligible. Those who requested more than $20,000 would receive the first $20,000, with the rest awarded at 60% “in order to ensure every qualifying school receives some support,” Husted said.

The funding can be used by the districts to pay for home internet for students, hotspots, or public Wifi infrastructures. Schools can’t use the money for cellphones unless they are repurposed to function only as a hotspot, “hardware that does not contribute towards an internet connection,” or devices “that do not primarily allow a child to have access to the internet,” the department stated.

All purchases under the grant must be made by December 30. 

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.