California Schools to Get Help with Broadband Infrastructure

The state grants provide the last step needed to connect an additional 63,000 students to the state education network and give them access to technology, helping close the digital divide.

by Doane Yawger, Merced Sun-Star / January 26, 2015

(TNS) Four area schools will benefit from part of $27 million awarded to 227 California campuses to help enhance their broadband infrastructure, according to the state Department of Education.

El Nido and Plainsburg elementary schools, Romero Elementary School in Santa Nella and Lake Don Pedro Elementary School in Mariposa County are getting Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grants from the state. They are intended to help isolated schools administer the new Smarter Balance state achievement tests.

Rae Ann Jimenez, El Nido superintendent-principal, called the state grant a huge step in the right direction for her district 15 miles south of Merced. They applied for funding last fall.

“Our students deserve to be connected to the outside world,” Jimenez said. “We will get better connectivity to the outside through fiber optics and internal hardware connections so eventually we can move to one-to-one computer learning. It’s expensive to advance. We are taking it one step at a time.”

The El Nido district has 173 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Jimenez hopes El Nido students will have access to high school and college opportunities.

Kristi Kingston, Plainsburg School superintendent-principal, said her district’s goal is to have all students learning by computer at the end of this school year. The state money will help with necessary cabling and other infrastructure along with computer devices.

“Our infrastructure is out of date and we lean on the Merced County Office of Education a lot,” Kingston said. “With new Common Core standards, we want kids to be involved and so they can be connected to the outside world. That’s always a blessing when we get some funding.”

Roberta Plazola, health aide with the Gustine Unified School District, said her district applied for the grants in October, with help from MCOE administrators. There are 245 kindergarten through fifth-grade students at the Santa Nella school.

Robin Hopper, Mariposa County Unified School District superintendent, said the district is very excited to have this opportunity to bring enhanced technology capability to that part of the county, where it is sorely needed.

“This grant will help us close the digital divide for our students and families in the north part of Mariposa County,” Hopper said.

Ron Henderson, principal at Lake Don Pedro Elementary, said the school is looking forward to having increased broadband so students can become 21st-century leaders.

Mariposa County Unified submitted proposals for its three most Internet-needy schools, Lake Don Pedro, El Portal and Yosemite Valley School.

Coulterville High School, Mariposa County High School, Woodland and Mariposa elementary schools along with alternative education schools have excellent Internet bandwidth capacity, thanks to a previous state grant from a year ago.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a news release that these state grants provide the critical last step needed to connect an additional 63,000 students to the state education network and give them access to technology, which will prepare them for college and careers. It also will let them take the new computer-based California assessment tests.

“Getting all school sites connected is critical because the new online system provides teachers more resources to improve instruction, improves students’ test-taking experience, and ensures that results are available to teachers, parents, and students much sooner than ever before,” state Board of Education President Dr. Michael Kirst said in the release.

©2015 the Merced Sun-Star (Merced, Calif.)


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