By Dave Russell
Jackson County ranks near the bottom of the state in homes with internet access. COVID-19 doesn’t care.
Last month it forced the county’s Board of Education to implement a hybrid in-person/remote learning plan that requires students to have internet access in the home.
Chief Technology Officer Jeremiah Jackson presented the board with a solution for some county families lacking the internet access children would need to study their readin’, writin’ and ’rithmatic.
Little boxes would bring mobile hotspots to 200 households across the county, Jackson said.
The hotspots would convert cellphone data signal to internet service, allowing students to sign in and learn. The hotspots would work anywhere a cellphone receives a signal.
Numbers are limited, however.
“It’s not like we can give one to every student,” Jackson said. “We are going to have to have some kind of selection criteria which I’m working on with principals and the Curriculum Department. We’re going to try to provide one to every student we can, until we run out. If there are three kids in one household, they would still only get one device.”
Interested families in need of the program should contact the principals of their schools.
The hotspots are “plug and play.” School personnel would not be required to perform setup in the home.
“There won’t be any configuration at all,” Jackson said. “When you power them up, they just provide wireless. We’ll go ahead and pre-program the laptops to connect to that wireless.”
Students would have laptops provided by JCPS.
“The internet access is unlimited, but it is not 100 percent open,” Jackson said. “The company that we use blocks things like Netflix and Hulu and things of that nature, because we only have so much bandwidth.”
YouTube would be available, as many teachers use it in their lessons.
“Families won’t be able to connect it to their Smart TV and stream TV content,” he said.
Jackson said he would be available as much as he can to help.
“We won’t be able to help them connect their personal devices, if they are having a problem getting their personal devices on there,” he said. “We’ll make sure it works with their Jackson County Schools device.”
Phone numbers for device support from the manufacturer, Kajeet, would be available as well.