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Guilford County Schools to Spend $1M to Close Digital Divide

A North Carolina school district will give money to a local consortium for the design, building and operation of a CBRS/5G wireless network to provide Internet access to homes in designated high-density areas.

Closeup of a pile of yellow broadband cables with blue caps.
(TNS) — Guilford County Schools is contributing $1 million toward a project to bring reliable home Internet to students in designated areas of need.

The district's Board of Education approved the expense at its meeting Tuesday night, at the recommendation of Whitney Oakley, who is acting superintendent.

The money will come from the district's federal COVID-19 relief dollars and will go to the Technology and Data Institute.

TDI is a consortium that includes the district, the cities of Greensboro and High Point, Guilford County, N.C. A&T and UNCG.

According to the meeting materials, TDI expects to facilitate the design, build and operation of a CBRS/5G wireless network to support the development of the network, connectivity, and in-home connection in designated high-density areas.

Later in the meeting, the school board voted 8-0, with one member absent, to approve the 2022-23 budget resolution, which incorporates information from the budget passed by state legislators and replaces the district's interim budget.

The budget includes $19.2 million more this year from the Guilford County Board of Commissioners for the district in annual operations funding. Of that increased funding, $13.2 million would pay for local salary supplement increases for teachers, assistant principals and principals. The remainder would cover required distributions to public charter schools and to help pay for state-legislated raises for locally funded positions.

The funding from commissioners was not enough to cover a $5.5 million increase in compensation for classified staff, including custodians, cafeteria workers and teacher assistants that the district had included in its original budget request, and that item was not included in the final budget.

Classified staff are included in expected pay raises from the state. And school board member Deborah Napper said she is already "agitating" for the possibility of using federal COVID-19 relief dollars, if some money is left over, for staff bonuses.

©2022 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.