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Coalition formed to close technology gap for Nevada students

A statewide coalition dedicated to providing equal access to virtual learning for Nevada students officially launched on Wednesday with backing from the Elaine P. Wynn and Family Foundation.

Connecting Kids was formed to ensure that all public school students in Nevada have what they need to start the first day of the 2020-21 school year at home.

Thanks to a partnership between Cox Communications and the Clark County School District, families without access to Wi-Fi at home can contact the coalition’s Family Support Center to set up a district-subsidized internet connection.

Families also need to fill out a technology-focused survey.

The coalition was formed by Elaine Wynn, president of the Nevada State Board of Education, and Chairman Jim Murren of the Nevada COVID-19 Task Force, in partnership with Communities in Schools, The Public Education Foundation and local municipalities and businesses.

On Wednesday the group’s website said it provides resources for Clark and Humboldt counties and plans to expand to every school district in the state. A Nevada map on the coalition’s website was colored entirely gray, but the group says its goal is to mark each county in green to signify that all students are equipped to start the school year.

‘Every child deserves equal access’

“Every child deserves equal access to virtual learning and as a state it is crucial that we all band together to eliminate the technology gap among students who do not have access to a computer or internet connection,” Wynn said in a statement.

Schools in Clark County started distributing Chromebooks to students last week in preparation for the first day of school on Aug. 24, when kids will start the new year the same way they ended the last: entirely online.

In May, the Clark County School District said it had deployed more than 85,000 Chromebooks for distance learning and had about 157,000 left to distribute. The district said $23 million in federal coronavirus emergency funds would cover the nearly 80,000 additional laptops required to put one in the hands of students and keep enough in reserve to provide replacements.

But even with a school district Chromebook in hand, students need an internet connection for distance learning. And some don’t have one.

The school district released a back-to-school guide this month with information on registration, meal distribution and internet access, as well as a directory of locations throughout the Las Vegas Valley that provide free Wi-Fi access to students.

The district also has floated the idea of bringing back wireless internet-equipped school buses, which ran this spring, and purchasing up to 5,000 Kajeet mobile “hot spots” for qualifying students.

Parents of 115,000 of the district’s 312,000 students responded to a district survey presented at a July 21 Clark County School District Board meeting, which showed that 5 percent of students lacked internet access at home, 21 percent had access to a district device only and 6 percent had no device access at all.

Contact Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter.

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