Harrison County Schools try tackling the digital divide

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HARRISON COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) — School during the coronavirus has been difficult enough.

Teaching and learning online is a new challenge but one issue makes it even more difficult.

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A study by Common Sense Media found 36% of kids in the state don’t have internet access. 10% of teachers also don’t.

Almost 36% of Harrison County homes don’t have internet service, according to the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky.

“They may have connection via cellphone or some other way but they don’t have a reliable internet broadband access that they can actually learn from, utilize for online learning,” says Superintendent of Harrison County Schools, Harry Burchett, Ed.D.

The superintendent says about 65% of his students are returning in person but 35% will take virtual classes.

So how is the district going to meet the need for internet?

“We’ve looked at adding hotspots on our buses so that we can actually have buses go out in the community and park in various places and get connectivity, says Burchett.

The public library also has hotspots and Burchett says the housing authority invested in internet access for students in public housing.

The district has asked churches to allow students to connect to their WiFi.

Also, schools are buying 1,400 Google Chromebooks for students and teachers.

“We’re also utilizing thumb drives or USB pin drives to transfer some data back and forth where need be,” says Burchett.

Meeting the needs of all students and families is a top priority and administrators have sent surveys to gauge parents’ needs and desires.

“They are actually physically contacting those families by phone or by driving to the household if necessary,” says Burchett.

But internet access isn’t just an issue in Harrison County. It’s a nationwide issue that he thinks Congress needs to address.

“To really ensure that all students – this is an equity issue – all students need access to the broadband, all families do. It’s just a basic principle we should all have,” says Burchett.

He says the district is doing the best it can with the resources it has.

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Christy Bollinger joined the ABC 36 news team as a reporter in March 2018. Christy comes from a little western Kentucky town called Cadiz. She graduated from Western Kentucky University in May 2017 with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Criminology. Christy is thrilled to be working at her dream job in her home state. She is passionate about storytelling and you can see her weekdays on ABC 36 News at 5 and 6 p.m. She's covered everything from visits from the sitting president and vice president, to high-profile murder cases. When not chasing stories, Christy loves nothing more than being at the beach and says life is just better with sand between your toes and waves crashing at your feet. She is also a big animal lover. She's a fur momma and her mini-Australian Shepherd, Milly, standard Australian Shepherd, Bennie, and her Maine Coon, Cheeto, are the loves of her life. Christy encourages you to send her any story ideas you may have. Find her on Facebook at Christy Bollinger ABC 36, tweet her @ChristyB_news, or email her at CBollinger@wtvq.com.