Red Lion Area School District installs equipment to grant internet access to students

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Loganville Springfield Elementary third-grader Olivia Montour, 8, sits at her desk in the corner of her bedroom while remote learning with her class from her home in Springfield Township, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Montour's mother, Jessica Montour, not pictured, realized that her daughters needed individual learning space and moved her elder daughter, Ava, 9, to the dining room. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The Red Lion Area School District is taking steps to secure internet access for the hundreds of students still lacking a connection at home. 

Officials installed equipment at the top of two radio towers located near the north and south ends of the district, at Clearview Elementary and Larry J. Macaluso Elementary, according to Tim Smith, the district's supervisor of instructional practice and technology integration.

The district is now working to identify students who lack stable internet access and will install equipment at their homes that can connect to the Wi-Fi signals from the towers. 

So far, Smith said, the equipment has provided internet to four students at two households, but there are many more students who lack access. While he doesn't know exactly how many students currently don't have internet at home, Smith estimated it to be between 200 and 300 out of the district's roughly 5,000 students. He said he expects another 300 to 400 students also struggle with keeping a stable internet connection. 

The Red Lion Area School District has been working to provide internet connections to its students for several years. According to a news release, Superintendent Scott Deisley started discussions in 2019 about creating a network to provide internet connections to students' homes. 

The COVID-19 pandemic elevated the need for internet access when schools started shutting down in March 2020. 

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Red Lion schools have been open for in-person instruction since the start of the school year, but Smith said the district still offers remote options, and officials are looking to expand digital education services moving forward.

With the importance of internet access to most fields of work, he said, the district wants to make sure as many students as possible have that resource. 

"We need to make sure our students have access to it when they need it," Smith said. 

The project is funded through a $30,000 grant from the Red Lion Area Educational Foundation, but beyond that Smith said the project is working with limited funds. According to the news release, the district hopes the project will provide internet access to nearly 100 students over the next year.