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MMSD talks equity in expanding internet access to all students, learning from home

District leader Chad Wiese provides an update on student internet access in a virtual press conference Wednesday.
District leader Chad Wiese provides an update on student internet access in a virtual press conference Wednesday.(NBC15)
Published: Apr. 29, 2020 at 10:17 PM CDT
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In the ongoing transition to virtual learning, the Madison Metropolitan School District says it’s considering equity at every point, which includes internet access to students.

“All of this work has been done to meet the needs of our most marginalized students, and we are quite proud of it,” Chad Wiese, the district’s executive director of building services, said Wednesday.

According to Wiese, more than 20,000 Chromebooks have been issued to students.

"The internet is no longer nice to have. It is a necessity, even more so in our current circumstances,” Wiese said, a month into the district's virtual learning program. “We are having ongoing discussions both internally and with the City of Madison to continue to make long-term changes that would be necessary to provide sustainable access to the internet.”

The district is also working to bring Wi-Fi to 3,000 students who still do not have reliable internet service, numbers for which Wiese says were obtained through surveys. In the meantime, interim superintendent Jane Belmore said these students have been learning from paper workbooks issued to them.

Wednesday, building administrators installed long-range wireless access points at select schools for families to use on outside grounds. They are Leopold Elementary, Mendota Elementary, Toki Middle, Orchard Ridge Elementary, Lincoln Elementary and Falk Elementary.

Another “short-term” solution starting next week, according to Wiese, the Dream Bus will go from delivering books to providing wireless signal to neighborhoods.

The district is set to purchase 1,800 wireless hotspots and anticipates them to be delivered to families in need next month.

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