Technology and Infrastructure
Access to electronic devices used for learning, such as Chromebooks and Tablets, in addition to stable access to Internet services is vital for students engaging in remote learning. In this light, equity of access to electronic devices and the ability to connect to the internet continues to be a top priority in Somerville Public Schools. The goal is to ensure every family has stable access to both.
SPS will continue to assist families in obtaining stable Internet through public wifi, hotspots, and reduced rate home internet service through participating Internet providers for families who qualify. This has been a particular challenge. As of July, we have closed the connectivity gap for 91 families. The district has registered 57 SPS families with Comcast Essentials high-speed home internet, and 34 families have received a district hotspot. We have purchased additional hotspots and are extending Comcast subscriptions we purchased this spring through the 2020-2021 school year. We believe there may be as many as 100 additional SPS families who don’t yet have sufficient home internet. We are working to identify, contact, and connect those households in August.
During the Spring 2020 semester the distribution of Chromebooks and Tablets was a top priority to ensure equity of access to instruction. A concerted effort was made to provide any home needing a device with appropriate materials. Ensuring access to devices will continue to be a top priority, with the goal of ensuring that every student has a dedicated and functioning Chromebook or Tablet to support remote learning for the 2020-21 school year.
We are using family surveys and the support of school-based family and community liaisons to contact families to identify students who do not yet have a dedicated device to use, and will be issuing them devices on loan prior to the start of the 2020-2021 school year. We distributed approximately 1,000 devices last Spring and secured additional devices over the last month. We have more than 3,000 devices ready to distribute to students. We also have Hotspots and Comcast subscriptions available for students and families who do not yet have reliable internet service.
Support for educators, families and students related to the use of devices will continue to be in place. This includes providing access to learning resources for staff and families, working with 3-1-1 to coordinate technology support in languages other than English, as well as technology support from district technology specialists and schools. Students who are having trouble with their device can also submit a request for support using the Somerville Public Schools Remote Tech Support Contact Form.
Security will continue to be a priority as well and guide decisions on virtual platforms to engage in remote learning. We will continue to use platforms that have security in place to ensure safe virtual spaces for learning and to protect data. These most likely will be Zoom, Google Classroom/Meet, and Dojo for the start of the school year.