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Children from families who weight – making it more Maintain an entirely outweigh the risks. 400,000 Oklahomans since

Shift to Distance Learning Highlights Stark Inequities in Internet Connection


When the coronavirus are looking for a long-term second, a goal he called Public Schools has wel- prepared for this situation,”
pandemic closed school plan.” “lofty.” comed families to its school Brown said.
buildings, teachers were Secretary of Education “Rural access is currently parking lots to access free Student participation in
tasked with connecting to Betsy DeVos also is urging the biggest hurdle. It is very Wi-Fi while schools are Idabel’s distance learning is
students from afar. Suddenly, school districts to use the expensive to provide inter- closed. And in Tahlequah, averaging over 90%, which
May students’ lack of home inter-
net access was in the spot-
funds to invest in “tech-
nology, distance learning
net access to these areas,”
Ostrowe said.
the local electric cooperative
has added two free public
he called “phenomenal.”
The district, in far south-
light. resources, training and long- Hot Spots, Equity Wi-Fi spots at a school eastern Oklahoma, has
06 A mid-March survey by the term planning,” to support One of the most effective and city park as part of the 1,200 students this year.
Oklahoma Education Depart- distance learning, according workarounds is a portable FCC’s “Keep Americans Con- Nearly 90% are eligible for
ment showed that nearly to a recent press release. hot spot, which taps into a nected” initiative, according free or reduced-price lunch,
one-quarter of the state’s Even when schools cellular network and pro- to the Tahlequah Daily Press. an indicator of poverty.
2020 public school students, about
167,000, don’t have internet
reopen, likely this fall, some
situations could require
vides internet access. These
devices are how Epic Char-
More than 700 companies
have signed the pledge to
Brown said that drives his
push to increase technology
access at home. another pivot to distance ter Schools, the state’s larg- not terminate service due to access.
That means in places like learning. A resurgence of est virtual school with nearly customers’ inability to pay “Technology is here and
Page Hugo, a community of 5,100
in southeastern Oklahoma,
COVID-19 could require
widespread closures again.
30,000 students across the
state, provides internet to
their bills, waive late fees
and open Wi-Fi hot spots to
it’s not going away, and we
have to move forward in our
0009 teachers had to try to reach
students through phone
Social distancing could lead
schools to hold more digital
any student who needs it.
Like other schools, Epic will
Americans who need them.
School solutions such as
educational system,” he said.
“It’s even more important for
calls, emails and letters. The days to reduce risk. Individ- receive federal relief funds. these, while helpful tempo- poor districts to provide these
Clip district has distributed hun- ual students could be dis- The devices Epic provides rarily, are not suitable long- opportunities.”
resized dreds of schoolwork paper tance learning if exposure to work independent of a fami- term, said Fernandez, of
packets to students who are COVID-19 requires them to ly’s cell phone and the school EveryoneOn. And they pres-
29% offline. quarantine at home. pays the monthly data plans ent equity issues.
Despite the efforts, some Districts’ relief funds will for the service, said Shelly “We want access that is
students didn’t respond. be distributed through the Hickman, a spokeswoman equitable and ubiquitous. We
“We are lucky to have an Title 1 formula, which is for Epic. don’t expect higher-income
outstanding group of teach- based on the number of Demand for hot spots families to drive to a parking
ers who found creative ways low-income students served soared in the past few weeks lot to access the internet,”
to reach their students during
the crisis,” said Superinten-
dent Earl Dalke. “If we had
by the district. But the funds
have fewer restrictions than
Title 1 funds. For instance,
as schools transitioned to
distance learning. Dozens
of school districts across
she said.
Long-Term Solutions
When the state ordered a
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1715 N. Milt Phillips Avenu
been able to provide learning federal CARES Act funds the country have contacted full switch to distance learn-
opportunities to all students can be spent on technology EveryoneOn, a nonprofit ing for all districts on April 6, (405)382-
online, we would have been infrastructure upgrades that working to improve internet Idabel was ready.
able to do a far better job.” impact the entire district. access and device accessi- A month before schools
In some rural areas, inter- “Think about internet bility for low-income families, shuttered for the coronavi-
net service is spotty or slow
or even nonexistent. Districts
access through Wi-Fi and
the ability to not only impact
about purchasing hot spots
and LG -enabled tablets,
rus pandemic, Idabel Public
Schools held the district’s first Fast, Friendly
Friendly,
ly,,
Professiona
P siona
a
have been scrambling to buy common education, but stu- said Chief Executive Officer “virtual day.” It was some-
hot spots, which create a dents regardless of where Norma Fernandez. thing superintendent Doug
wireless internet connection they go to school,” Hof- f There’s a backlog, she Brown had heard about on
through cellular networks. meister said. “This is more said, and orders that previ- a podcast, and he wanted Popular c
Pop s
That created a backlog with of a global, comprehensive ously would have been ful- to try it as part of an ongoing ly
“Locald...
cellular companies, with answer.” filled in a week are now taking effort to increase the district’s
iin
noour fragra Owne lly
Loca .”
orders taking weeks. Some Greatest Needs Are two or three weeks. Schools use of technology. dep
department
p Operat
ed

districts rolled wireless inter- Rural are trying to order thousands Three years ago, the dis- & Kerry Kin
Seminole C
net-enabled school buses Ninety-nine percent of at a time. In the meantime, trict started providing hot 4
into neighborhoods or wel- schools in the country are students are trying to tran- spots to teachers, and when
comed families to school outfitted with high-speed sition to distance learning they upgraded, the district
parking lots for a signal. internet and Wi-Fi in class- without the tools they need, held on to the older ones &DQG\ /R]LHU
It’s a patchwork approach rooms to support digital adding stress to an already for student use. “We check :HRIIHU
that officials say is leaving learning, according to Edu- stressful situation. them out like a library book,” (DUWKTXDNH
some students behind. cationSuperHighway, a non- “We are talking about kids he said. They also are a one- ,QVXUDQFH
It’s also a hasty, cri- profit focused on improving who are already behind,” to-one district, meaning all FAR M E R
sis-driven approach, given Internet access in public Fernandez said. “It has a sig- students have a computer *HWV\RXEDFNZKHUH\RXEHO
the circumstances. But the schools. nificant impact on their learn- or tablet to use. The com- Auto • Home • Life • IRA
upcoming influx of federal But step off school grounds ing.” munity approved a $1 million Blue Cross - Blue Shield Represe
relief dollars presents an in Luther and internet access Tulsa Public Schools, bond for technology equip- 405-382-5183
opportunity to address what is “really difficult or slow,” the state’s second largest ment in 2017. Mon. -Fri. 9-5 or by Appointm
state Superintendent of said Barry Gunn, Luther’s district, distributed tens of “We’ve been really 311 N. Milt Phillips
*Securities offered through Farmers Financial So
Public Instruction Joy Hof- f superintendent. That’s the thousands of Chromebooks. blessed. We were really
meister called “a lingering case in many communities. But getting all students con-
issue,” meaning inadequate “We’re not as rural as most nected to the internet has
broadband at home.
The state is expecting
$160 million in federal relief
schools, and it’s spotty out
here in certain places,” Gunn
said. Luther is less than 30
proven more difficult.
“We provided a computer
to any child who needed one,
SULLIVAN-DOL
funds for K-12 education,
90% of which will be allo-
cated directly to school dis-
miles from downtown Okla-
homa City on the eastern
side Oklahoma County.
and we were able to do that
because of the generosity of
Tulsans,” said Superinten-
“The Department Store of In
tricts. Ten percent, or $16 Fewer than half of Okla- dent Deborah Gist, referring
million, can be spent by the homa’s rural residents have to bond dollars. “The chal-
department. access to high-speed internet lenge is internet access.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt, like all – one of the lowest percent- The Tulsa school board
state governors, is receiving ages of any state, according Monday night approved the
an additional federal grant to a Federal Communications purchase of 1,500 hotspots
for education from the gov- Commission report. Only two to give students internet
ernor’s emergency educa- states reported a smaller access for summer school.
tion relief fund. Stitt is set percentage of rural access: High-speed internet is
to receive $40 million. Stitt Arizona and Nevada. available to 95% of Oklaho- Cory
said on April 17 that he is That’s 651,000 Oklaho- mans living in urban areas Crabtree
considering spending some mans in rural areas who and less than 50% of those
of the funds on a private don’t have access to high- in rural areas, according to Independent
school scholarship fund or speed internet, defined as the FCC. Affordability is still Insurance
for Advanced Placement download speeds of at least an issue statewide. Even Agent
classes in rural areas, draw- 25 megabits per second. with low-cost plans available,
ing widespread backlash. “In today’s world, how providers can deny service
“Our primary focus is on we are interconnected is based on a family’s credit
connectivity and the ability
to close the digital divide,”
a necessity,” said David
Ostrowe, state secretary of
history.
One solution the district
• HOME • AUTO • BUSINE
Hofmeister said about the digital transformation and has used is parking a school
department’s portion
funds. She proposed that
of administration. He wants to
see all Oklahomans have
bus with free Wi-Fi at various
locations throughout the city 716 N. Milt Phillips,
Stitt also use his portion on
internet access. “Our schools
not only access, but speeds
of at least 100 megabits per
to fill in the gaps.
Similarly, Oklahoma City
Seminole ~ 405-382-168

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Clip
May 2020 Page resized
07 A008 32%

The Clinton Daily News

Jenkins quickly aided CHS golf


BY COLLIN WIEDER started varsity tourna- score in 2019.
Clinton Daily News ments as freshman. In each year, despite
Jenkins, who is now a losing big-time players,
EDITOR’S NOTE: third-year senior, start- the program reached its
Senior profiles usually ed alongside Coleman goals in both seasons. It
aren’t written until later in 2018 on the varsity happened largely because
in the seasons, but these squad. On a roster with Clinton’s youngsters, like
unforeseen circumstances three returning starters Jenkins, played well, es-
surrounding COVID-19 and a future college golf- pecially in 2019. Jenkins
(also known as the Coro- er in Adrianna Glance, shot a 95 to finish second
navirus) have obviously they had to grow up fast on the team at regionals,
changed those plans. and play at a high level. ultimately clinching a
One attribute that re- A pressure that Jen- state spot.
ally stuck out with the kins embraced from It didn’t come without
Clinton girls’ golf team the get-go and ended up some growing pains, like
is, composure, which be- scoring under 100 mul- most young players get,
gan to surface when se- tiple times during the but she adapted to the
nior Kaitlin Jenkins and year. She followed that varsity game.
junior Loren Coleman up by averaging a 98.2 “I was definitely ner-
vous, but I just kept my
focus,” Jenkins said
about starting on var-
sity early in her career.
“Coach (Mike) Lee just
helped me through it. I
used to get really nervous
with a lot of things, but
he helped me gain confi-
dence in my game.”
The third-year starter
grew her confidence and
learned how to throw
away a bad day on the
course. Jenkins improved
21 strokes from a wet
opening day at the 2019
state tourney to score a
99 on day two. She didn’t
allow a rough outing to
affect the next one.
She also focused on
CDN | Collin Wieder
improving her game by
playing practice rounds Clinton senior Kaitlin Jenkins holds her follow-through and watches the ball
with her brother and during the Weatherford Tournament last year.
working with swing
coach Kent Miller. Jen- Once she and the team “At first, it made us earlier, adding that she
kins said everyone felt were forced to step up in want to work harder to wants to get started on
a drive to compete after 2019, she said they looked prove that we were a her life goals.
losing key players. to make a statement. good team together,” she Golf didn’t look like
said about last year. “We it’d be in the picture,
would get together on however she returned
DELIVERY SERVICE: Life is better when weekends and work, text to CHS in the spring.
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Jenkins skipped from to the team, possibly put-
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initially went to online Oklahoma Christian
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de 8:30am a 12:30pm
Charter. She decided to major in nutrition and
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like graduating a year cheerleading.
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Property of OPS News Tracker and members of the Oklahoma Press Association.
McAlester News-Capital

Last year, I joined the other epidemic of missing persons, ment to implement the guide- newslettersignup.
May
07 Shift to distance learning highlights stark inequities in internet connection
By JENNIFER PALMER recent press release.
2020 OKLAHOMA WATCH Even when schools re-
open, likely this fall,
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of some situations could
Page a collaboration with FRONTLINE, the
PBS series, through its Local Journalism
require another pivot to
distance learning. A re-
A004 Initiative, which is funded by the John surgence of COVID-19
S. and James L. Knight Foundation and could require widespread
Clip the Corporation for Public closures again. Social
resized Broadcasting. distancing could lead
39% When the coronavirus schools to hold more dig-
pandemic closed school ital days to reduce risk.
buildings, teachers were Individual students
tasked with connecting could be distance learn-
to students from afar. ing if exposure to
Suddenly, students’ lack COVID-19 requires them
of home internet access to quarantine at home.
was in the spotlight. Districts’ relief funds
A mid-March survey by will be distributed
the Oklahoma Education TULSA PUBLIC SCHOOLS | Courtesy photo through the Title 1 for-
Department showed that TULSA PUBLIC SCHOOLS is using its bright blue activity buses as mobile hot spots to mula, which is based on
nearly one-quarter of the help students with distance learning. The buses provide wireless internet access up to the number of low-in-
state’s public school stu- 300 feet away and are parked at various locations around the city. come students served by
dents, about 167,000, the district. But the
don’t have internet ac- Earl Dalke. “If we had relief funds for K-12 ed- funds have fewer restric-
cess at home. been able to provide ucation, 90% of which tions than Title 1 funds.
That means in places learning opportunities to will be allocated directly For instance, federal
like Hugo, a community all students online, we to school districts. Ten CARES Act funds can be
of 5,100 in southeastern would have been able to percent, or $16 million, spent on technology in-
Oklahoma, teachers had do a far better job.” can be spent by the de- frastructure upgrades
to try to reach students In some rural areas, partment. that impact the entire
through phone calls, internet service is spotty Gov. Kevin Stitt, like district.
emails and letters. The or slow or even nonexis- all state governors, is “Think about internet
district has distributed tent. Districts have been receiving an additional access through Wi-Fi and
hundreds of schoolwork scrambling to buy hot federal grant for educa- the ability to not only
paper packets to stu- spots, which create a tion from the governor’s impact common educa-
dents who are offline. wireless internet connec- emergency education re- tion, but students re-
Despite the efforts, tion through cellular net- lief fund. Stitt is set to gardless of where they go
some students didn’t re- works. That created a sis-driven approach, giv- receive $40 million. Stitt to school,” Hofmeister
spond. backlog with cellular en the circumstances. said on April 17 that he said. “This is more of a
“We are lucky to have companies, with orders But the upcoming influx is considering spending global, comprehensive
an outstanding group of taking weeks. Some dis- of federal relief dollars some of the funds on a answer.”
teachers who found cre- tricts rolled wireless in- presents an opportunity private school scholar- GREATEST NEEDS ARE RURAL
ative ways to reach their ternet-enabled school ship fund or for Advanced
to address what state Ninety-nine percent of
students during the cri- buses into neighborhoods Placement classes in ru-
or welcomed families to Superintendent of Public schools in the country
sis,” said Superintendent Instruction Joy Hofmeis- ral areas, drawing wide-
school parking lots for a spread backlash. are outfitted with high-
signal. ter called “a lingering speed internet and Wi-Fi
“Our primary focus is
It’s a patchwork ap- issue,” meaning inade- in classrooms to support
on connectivity and the
proach that officials say quate broadband at ability to close the digital digital learning, accord-
is leaving some students home. divide,” Hofmeister said ing to EducationSuper-
behind. The state is expecting Highway, a nonprofit fo-
about the department’s
It’s also a hasty, cri- $160 million in federal cused on improving In-
portion of funds. She pro-
ternet access in public
posed that Stitt also use schools.
• Drive-thru
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access. “Our schools are
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grounds in Luther and
internet access is “really
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AUTO • HOME • LIFE Secretary of Education
• Lottery • Truck Diesel, Red Barry Gunn, Luther’s
Betsy DeVos also is urg- superintendent. That’s
Diesel & DEF Available at ing school districts to use the case in many commu-
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Josh Hass, Agent ing and long-term plan- spotty out here in certain
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McAlester News-Capital

said Chief Executive Officer cans who need them.


Internet ... Norma Fernandez. School solutions such as
<< CONTINUED from Page A4 There’s a backlog, she said, these, while helpful tempo-
and orders that previously rarily, are not suitable long-
places,” Gunn said. Luther would have been fulfilled in term, said Fernandez, of
is less than 30 miles from a week are now taking two EveryoneOn. And they pres-
downtown Oklahoma City or three weeks. Schools are ent equity issues.
May on the eastern side Oklaho- trying to order thousands at “We want access that is
07 ma County. a time. In the meantime, equitable and ubiquitous.
Fewer than half of Oklaho- students are trying to tran- We don’t expect higher-in-
ma’s rural residents have sition to distance learning come families to drive to a
2020 access to high-speed inter- without the tools they need, parking lot to access the
net – one of the lowest per- adding stress to an already internet,” she said.
Page centages of any state, ac- stressful situation.
cording to a Federal Com- LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS
A008 “We are talking about kids
munications Commission who are already behind,” When the state ordered a
Clip report. Only two states re- Fernandez said. “It has a full switch to distance learn-
resized ported a smaller percentage significant impact on their ing for all districts on April
51% of rural access: Arizona and learning.” 6, Idabel was ready.
Nevada. Tulsa Public Schools, the A month before schools
From That’s 651,000 Oklaho- shuttered for the coronavi-
state’s second largest dis-
A004 mans in rural areas who rus pandemic, Idabel Public
trict, distributed tens of
don’t have access to high- thousands of Chromebooks. Schools held the district’s
speed internet, defined as But getting all students con- first “virtual day.” It was
download speeds of at least nected to the internet has something superintendent
25 megabits per second. proven more difficult. Doug Brown had heard
“In today’s world, how we “We provided a computer about on a podcast, and he
are interconnected is a ne- to any child who needed one, wanted to try it as part of
cessity,” said David Ostrowe, and we were able to do that an ongoing effort to increase
state secretary of digital because of the generosity of the district’s use of technol-
transformation and admin- Tulsans,” said Superinten- ogy.
istration. He wants to see all dent Deborah Gist, referring Three years ago, the dis-
Oklahomans have not only to bond dollars. “The chal- trict started providing hot
access, but speeds of at least lenge is internet access.” spots to teachers, and when
100 megabits per second, a The Tulsa school board they upgraded, the district
goal he called “lofty.” Monday night approved the held on to the older ones for
“Rural access is currently purchase of 1,500 hotspots student use. “We check them
the biggest hurdle. It is very to give students internet out like a library book,” he
expensive to provide inter- access for summer school. said. They also are a one-to-
net access to these areas,” High-speed internet is one district, meaning all
Ostrowe said. available to 95% of Oklaho- students have a computer or
mans living in urban areas tablet to use. The communi-
HOT SPOTS, EQUITY ty approved a $1 million
and less than 50% of those
One of the most effective in rural areas, according to bond for technology equip-
workarounds is a portable the FCC. Affordability is ment in 2017.
hot spot, which taps into a still an issue statewide. “We’ve been really blessed.
cellular network and pro- Even with low-cost plans We were really prepared for
vides internet access. These available, providers can this situation,” Brown said.
devices are how Epic Char- deny service based on a fam- Student participation in
ter Schools, the state’s larg- ily’s credit history. Idabel’s distance learning is
est virtual school with near- One solution the district averaging over 90%, which
ly 30,000 students across has used is parking a school he called “phenomenal.”
the state, provides internet bus with free Wi-Fi at vari- The district, in far south-
to any student who needs it. ous locations throughout the eastern Oklahoma, has
Like other schools, Epic will city to fill in the gaps. 1,200 students this year.
receive federal relief funds. Similarly, Oklahoma City Nearly 90% are eligible for
The devices Epic provides Public Schools has wel- free or reduced-price lunch,
work independent of a fam- comed families to its school an indicator of poverty.
ily’s cell phone and the parking lots to access free Brown said that drives his
school pays the monthly Wi-Fi while schools are push to increase technology
data plans for the service, closed. And in Tahlequah, access.
said Shelly Hickman, a the local electric cooperative “Technology is here and
spokeswoman for Epic. has added two free public it’s not going away, and we
Demand for hot spots Wi-Fi spots at a school and have to move forward in our
soared in the past few weeks city park as part of the educational system,” he
as schools transitioned to FCC’s “Keep Americans said. “It’s even more import-
distance learning. Dozens of Connected” initiative, ac- ant for poor districts to pro-
school districts across the cording to the Tahlequah vide these opportunities.”
country have contacted Ev- Daily Press. More than 700
eryoneOn, a nonprofit work- companies have signed the • Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit,
ing to improve internet ac- pledge to not terminate ser- nonpartisan media organization that
cess and device accessibility vice due to customers’ in- produces in-depth and investigative
for low-income families, ability to pay their bills, content on public-policy issues facing
about purchasing hot spots waive late fees and open the state. For more Oklahoma Watch
and LG -enabled tablets, Wi-Fi hot spots to Ameri- content, go to oklahomawatch.org.

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