In collaboration with Hillsborough County Public Schools, Hillsborough Education Foundation has begun distributing Wi-Fi hotspots to families who lack the critical internet access needed for students to make the necessary shift to eLearning due to COVID-19.
With an initial focus on the district’s 50 highest needs Achievement Schools, Hillsborough Education Foundation is coordinating the distribution of 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to school sites, including Potter Elementary, which recently received 30 hotspots for students in need.
Potter Elementary Community School Coordinator Meredith Mullen said the support from Hillsborough Education Foundation, and the Foundation’s donors and partners, will help the school combat the lack of digital resources that many of their students are facing when trying to participate in eLearning.
“Hillsborough Education Foundation is amazing— they’re huge supporters of us, and all the Achievement Schools,” Mullen said. “They’re helping to bridge the digital inequity that we have going on in our district right now. Many of our families were not able to get those appointments with Spectrum due to blocked addresses, so they (HEF) reached out to our school and they’re providing our families with free hotspots with unlimited data to really help our students get that eLearning going.”
Lashonda Parrilla, a Potter Elementary School mother, said she and her sister were working together to find solutions to her lack of internet access so their children could connect to eLearning platforms. However, the students were left feeling frustrated as they tried to complete their work. Now that the family has received a Wi-Fi hotspot and free internet access through the remainder of the school year, the students will be able to successfully learn from home.
“My sister would come over and connect them with her phone because she had the internet hooked up on her phone, and all three of the kids would sit down and do their work, but the internet was going too slow and they were getting frustrated,” Parrilla said. “I think this was a wonderful thing that you all are doing for the kids to help us out because he loves to work, he loves school.”
Mullen explained that barriers to eLearning, compounded with the additional economic challenges many of Potter’s families face, could make it difficult for their students to receive instruction and leave them at risk of falling behind in their studies.
“Our families at Potter have a lot of barriers to begin with, and transportation is one of them,” Mullen said. “So, if they are not able to do eLearning, they have to get those paper packets and if they don’t have a ride up to the school to get those paper packets, we’re kind of at a loss. This this is really helping our kids get into eLearning and be with the rest of their peers and keep their instruction going with their teachers.”
Potter Elementary School mother Charlene Adams said she is thankful to receive one of the Wi-Fi hotspots, as it will be a tremendous help for her family and will allow her child to stay on track with schoolwork.
“It’s been a struggle,” Adams said. “We’ve just got to keep the kids on track. It helps a lot. He’s growing really well in math and reading— especially reading. The help that you guys are giving us is help for our kids too.”
Hillsborough Education Foundation’s Digital Equity Team is working with the district to identify students who are unable to access eLearning platforms due to a lack of digital resources. Families who are in need of internet access can call 813-574-0260 to determine eligibility for a Wi-Fi hotspot or inform their child’s school so they can coordinate efforts with our team.
If you would like to help support Hillsborough Education Foundation’s mission to strengthen public education and ensure all students have access and opportunity to learn, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, make a contribution today at www.educationfoundation.com/donate.