Lee's Summit Journal

High-speed internet access gives LS high-school students a chance to shine

Senior English IB students at Lee’s Summit North High School work on essays in class, using their school-provided laptops. Integrating technology and internet into lessons is standard in schools now.
Senior English IB students at Lee’s Summit North High School work on essays in class, using their school-provided laptops. Integrating technology and internet into lessons is standard in schools now. Special to the Journal

Point, click and in a snap you’re online. Getting online hasn’t been quite that easy for some students at Lee’s Summit’s high schools, but that’s about to change.

About 100 students in the district in grades nine through 12 who didn’t have access to high-speed internet at home will be getting it for free, courtesy of the 1Million Project Foundation. The program gives wireless hotspots to students in need.

Sprint is providing three gigabytes of high-speed internet service to each hotspot every month for free. If students use up that data, they can still use the hotspot for lower-speed connections until the next month starts.

“Our world is so technology driven now. … A lot of the homework the kids have to do, a lot of the resources now, the tutoring, the extra help (is online). … We’re expecting kids to have that access,” said Shelley McCain, a counselor at Lee’s Summit North High School.

“They can’t go home and look up a lesson on Khan Academy and learn how to do their math problem. When they get stuck on the math problem at home, they can’t pull up the video to watch how to do it, because they don’t have internet access.”

It’s also important for student to have access not only to homework help resources but to have the ability to email teachers whenever they need to do so.

“The piece that I think is exciting to me for our district and our kids is that connection our students get to have with their teachers outside of school hours,” said Kelly Wachel, executive director of public relations for the Lee’s Summit School District.

After a student graduates, the hotspot stays active until August, then deactivates.

Lee’s Summit isn’t the only school district in the area to take advantage of the program — now in its second year — to help its students. Eighteen local districts — including Independence, Blue Springs, Belton, Grandview and Hickman Mills — are part of the program, said Thomas Wiley, a school implementation lead for the non-profit.

The foundation also provides smart devices for students, but since Lee’s Summit already gives its high school students Chromebooks, the district opted to just get the hotspots. District officials went through a list of students who had identified themselves as not having high-speed connections at home and asked their parents if they would like a hotspot.

For the next four years, the foundation will offer all incoming Lee’s Summit freshmen and transfer students who do not have a high-speed connection at home a hotspot, Wiley said.

“If they have been limited to just doing homework at school, then whatever they can’t get done at school goes undone because they don’t have that access at home,” McCain said. “This will provide them an opportunity to be able to complete more work, to be more efficient, to be more connected.”

Although places like the public library and Starbucks offer high-speed internet, it isn’t always convenient or easy for families to get their kids there to use it on a regular basis.

The foundation conducted a survey of students who used their hotspots in the first year of the program and found that 84 percent “say it’s easier to complete more of their homework in a comfortable, convenient and safe place,” Wiley said.

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