The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is thankful for the generous consideration to supplement student connectivity on behalf of Governor Hutchinson’s $10 million allocation of the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. This allocation will allow for the purchase of approximately 20,000 CIPA compliant internet hotspots that will be distributed to support the reopening and continuation of learning for Arkansas schools.
To ensure GEER Funds are appropriately awarded, emails will be sent directly to the superintendent, blended learning point-of-contact, and technology coordinator of each district beginning today. This email will provide each team with additional details involving projected allotment information, ordering processes, and logistics. Every district is expected to respond as quickly as possible to ensure device availability and distribution.
The number of hotspots per district will be based on the district’s 2019-2020 Quarter 4 ADM, availability of funding, consideration of pricing offered by selected telecommunication partner(s), and other factors as determined by the ADE in an effort to maintain equitable distribution. This endeavor is intended to supplement, not supplant, efforts being made by school districts to meet the connectivity needs of students.
AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are the telecommunications providers chosen for this project. Eligibility has been determined by the existence of current state contracts. Districts will be able to select the providers that best align with the mobile coverage options in their area. Districts may directly purchase additional hotspots, beyond the state allocated amounts, by working directly with the selected providers in an effort to take advantage of pricing under this partnership. Districts will have contact information for each provider to assist with ascertaining which provider(s) will best meet their needs for connectivity, extra benefits, and coverage areas.
The intent of the hotspot project is to assist students with the greatest need. Hotspots purchased with the GEER Fund are expected to be distributed to students with the greatest need for access. Priority and consideration for student access to a hotspot should include the following:
- Student is learning virtually due to a COVID-19 related health situation and does not have access by other means to connectivity for online/blended learning materials and resources.
- Student is economically disadvantaged and requires additional assistance acquiring connectivity for online/blended learning materials and resources.
- Student is experiencing homelessness and requires additional assistance acquiring connectivity for online/blended learning materials and resources.
The Arkansas Department of Education may review and/or monitor district hotspot distribution and records to determine priority is given to students with the greatest need.