Closing the Digital Divide

More than a year ago, Impact on Education’s CEO Fran Ryan had a crazy idea…

“If one of the stated goals of both the Boulder Valley School District and Impact on Education is to create ‘21st Century Learners’ and we, as the foundation supporting the school district, exist to reduce educational inequities and maximize learning opportunities then shouldn’t we be ensuring that students have access to the internet beyond the doors of their schools?”

As more and more teachers and schools rely on technology solutions to increase student learning by expanding learning opportunities throughout the day both inside and outside of the classroom, students need access to a reliable internet connection at home.

Through leveraging community partnerships with the Boulder Valley School District, Boulder Housing Partners, and the City of Boulder, Impact on Education assisted in the creation of a wireless internet hub for the nearly 60 students living in the Kalmia Housing Development in Boulder.

Why We Initiated This Project

Technology has become essential to learning in all grade levels of education, but a gap in access to the internet between higher-income and lower-income families is leading to dramatic disparities in educational success.

On average nationally, only 3 percent of low-income students have access to internet at home, in contrast to 50 percent of higher-income students. Even in urban and suburban areas, internet access costs an average of $38 per month, and sometimes upwards of $80 per month—a cost that can be prohibitive for many families with economic challenges.

A recent report from the Pew Research Center found that low-income students’ disproportionately lower access to internet at home limited teachers capabilities of providing enriching and effective instruction. In fact, 56 percent of teachers who work with economically challenged students say that their students’ lack of access to digital technology is a “major challenge” to using quality online resources in their lessons.

The Solution

Boulder Valley School District already owns about 100 miles of fiber that’s used to provide continuous internet access to its schools. Through collaboration and technical support from the City of Boulder, as well as financial support from Impact on Education, the Boulder Valley School District, and Boulder Housing Partners, one section of the district’s fiber was spliced and funneled a few hundred yards over to the Kalmia site.

Boulder Valley School District students living in the Kalmia development are given a custom password to access the wireless internet. Since students will be accessing Boulder Valley’s network, the connection will be secure and filtered to block adult content.

With all BVSD students utilizing the Google platform in school to create, store, and share documents, it was imperative to ensure that all students would be able to fully utilize the collaborative capabilities that internet access offers to academics.

Moving Forward

Boulder Valley School District’s internet fiber runs a ring around Boulder, Louisville, and Lafayette so, when funding is secured, we hope to support similar efforts to provide wireless internet access to the hundreds of students living in low-income housing developments in Boulder, Louisville, and Lafayette.