Middletown Schools signs home internet provider deal to help families with remote learning

Middletown Schools’ leader said the district is closing its digital-learning gap suffered by some families, but there’s more to be done.

During a Facebook Live announcement, Middletown Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. unveiled Monday the district has signed a two-year agreement with an internet provider to allow needy school families with wi-fi access.

The district also recently announced all students in grades three through 12 will be issued a district laptop to learn from home during the continued concerns over the coronavirus.

And Styles said the 6,300-student city schools, which is one of the few in the region to already decide it will start the new school year with all students learning away from schools, is now focusing on getting to learning laptop devices for the remaining students in kindergarten through second grade.

While all students will not be in school buildings, families can choose to have their students do virtual learning, a different path allowing them to work more at their own pace. With remote learning, students will have locally directed programs.

“The vendors we are working with their orders are backlogged. So we have gone back to the drawing board on how to give all our students devices,” said Styles. “We have heard your concerns loud and clear and we are working with our vendors to get more devices.

Styles recently testified remotely before a Congressional committee earlier than this year that was exploring the depth of the digital gap problems in American school systems with lower income families lacking the same digital learning options of most other families.

Laptops for students in grades 3-12 will be available for pick up sometime during the week of Aug. 17 - the district’s start of the new school year - and school families will also pick up their wi-fi access and passwords at that time.

The exact timing and locations that week for school families to stop by schools is still being worked out, he said.

“It’s been a very crazy time for the last few weeks here and in schools across Ohio. Please be patient with us,” he said.

Styles also said decisions are yet to be made on fall sports and extra-curricular activities.

Ohio prep sports fall season practices start Saturday, and Styles said officials are awaiting word from the Ohio High School Athletic Association and state and local health officials as to how to proceed.

But it has been decided the children of families who sign up choose the virtual learning option for the first semester – sign-up deadline Aug. 3 - will not be allowed to participate in-person band, orchestra or choir.

“There is a lot going on (and) we are preparing the best we can,” he said, urging school families to refer to the district’s website for further announcements and details.

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