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State school board may seek $5 million-plus to support remote learning

(PHOTO: Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A $5 million request may be put forward by the State Board of Education to the Legislature in order to support remote learning. The funds would go towards expanding broadband access for students.

Ensuring that every student can access remote learning

According to the Salt Lake City School District, they’ve already taken federal support and distributed it amongst the district, so schools can purchase hundreds of personal hot spots to give to students. With a full return to in-person learning still unsettled, the State Board of Education is looking into ways to continue expanding online access for students.

Yesterday, the school board voted to support a request to the Legislature, which asks for $5 million in one-time money and then another $350,000 for ongoing funding.

Sam Quantz, the Salt Lake City School District’s chief information officer, tells the Deseret News the funding they received from the CARES Act was vital in getting this effort off the ground.

“I think we could have handled probably about a third of what we’ve done to get us up and running, and that would have been one-time funds. We definitely would have had to divert other funds from other places to make it sustainable,” he explained.

Finding a stop-gap, while looking for permanent solutions

The school district also used the State School Board’s grant program to help pay for in-home internet access for a year. It was made possible thanks to the Internet Essentials program, which was established in a partnership between the Salt Lake Education Foundation and Comcast. The program provides a 25-megabyte line into users’ homes.

Quantz said the district also spent around $250,000 on equipment and to purchase services. The goal was to ensure that students can access Wi-Fi in order to participate in school, although it’s more of a stop-gap measure until broadband service becomes widely available.