FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – More resources for low-income students in Fresno are underway. On Friday, Fresno Unified unveiled its very own LTE network to help low-income kids stay connected to the internet.
Up to 10,000 students in southeast and southwest Fresno will have access to fast, reliable internet connection.
“We have 15 cell towers on the schools for now, it covers 25 schools worth of students,” said Superintendent Bob Nelson.
The $1.7 million effort was made possible thanks to federal pandemic relief funds. While most students have returned to the classroom, some may still learn from home if they’re exposed to COVID-19.
“We also have an online academy, it’s the largest growing school in Fresno Unified. 4,800 families opted to still take their instruction from home,” he said.
The school district is in the process of deploying Connect2Learn hotspots to students now.
“They need to access great instructional videos, great curriculum, a lot of interactive technologies like Nearpod,” said Sandra Gutierrez, a teacher and librarian at Gaston Middle School, one of the 15 schools serving as a cell tower.
Gutierrez said kids at Gaston Middle School faced connectivity issues when trying to learn from home in 2020.
“My parents are working but I have to go to my aunt’s house. And my aunt has three kids online, and then there’s three of us in our family. All of a sudden there’s seven of us trying to use the internet,” she shared, adding that up to 800 hotspots were checked out during the pandemic.
“In the lowest-income parts of town, cell service there is pretty spotty, cell towers are minimal,” said the superintendent.
The rollout began in mid-October. Only students with district-issued hotspots will be able to access the private LTE network.
“It’s really exciting. We’re the first in the Valley to offer [something] like this, one of the first major urbans in California to be able to offer our own wi-fi network,” Nelson said.
Fresno Unified is aiming to expand the service districtwide. The school district partnered with Nokia and Netsync to launch Connect2Learn.