GOV: $10 million for Wi-Fi access points for students across Arkansas, free of charge

Sally Bennett, superintendent of Rivercrest School District says rural broadband is a "significant factor" in a school district like hers.

FULL BRIEFING 7/27: Gov. Hutchinson, ADH, and education officials COVID-19 update for Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - Gov. Asa Hutchinson updates the public on the state’s response to the coronavirus, including the latest cases of COVID-19 and deaths.

Governor Hutchinson announced Monday afternoon that the CARES Act will provide $10 million for Wi-Fi access for students across Arkansas. All of the money from this fund is national money, no state money.

Hutchinson said this will allow schools to provide internet access for students who do not have access at home.

This will provide 20,000 devices across the state, that students can take home. Wi-Fi can be provided by cellular signals for students also.

The funding will provide around 20,000 devices with “up to 24 months of high-speed unlimited data,” according to the announcement.

According to the governor, the student would bring the Wi-Fi access point home if needed.

Hutchinson also admitted there would still be gaps in providing service if a student lives in an area that doesn’t access to a cellular signal.

Hutchinson said the state will work with AT&T, T-Mobile, and possibly a third vendor that will provide the service to the school districts in Arkansas.

The Department of Education will work with the providers to make sure customer service and technical support is offered.

The Arkansas Department of Health is getting 200 COVID antigen systems testing machines, including tests. The new machines will start to come in next week.

The majority of the new COVID-19 cases in Arkansas are from the following counties:

  • -Pulaski (120)
  • -Washington (62)
  • -Craighead (46)
  • -Benton (45)
  • -Sebastian (30)
  • -Jefferson (29)

The Arkansas Department of Education is asking all school districts if they have enough PPE’s for the upcoming school year, and maintain the school throughout the semester.

Key said, “Our schools will follow CDC guidelines when it comes to accumulating PPE. The question is how long will it last? The reserve will help the schools resupply if our estimates are off or if they have supply chain issues.” Key said it’s literally a moving target.

ADE said they will use $1 million in CARES Act funding to purchase a strategic stockpile of personal protective equipment for our schools.

Bennett said that while she says in-school learning is best, however part of the planning process provides off-site learning. Says the digital divide is “real and deep,” and says today’s announcement is “monumental.”

Hutchinson said the state has close to 50% of the CARES Act funding that hasn’t been disbursed. Hutchinson said, “There’s an urgency to get it out especially for testing and tracing.”

Watch the full briefing live on-air or online here>>>

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