Commissioners pave the way for additional hotspots

Commissioners pave the way for additional hotspots
Posted on 08/21/2020

Morganton, NC – Friday, Aug. 21, 2020

The Burke County Board of Commissioners has approved additional funding to Burke County Public Schools to purchase 750 hotspots to help students connect with their teachers during remote learning. The commissioners made the announcement at their regular meeting on Tuesday. 

Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Larry Putnam said, "We started school in a way we never have before: remotely. I am proud of our technology team for distributing more than 9,680 devices in the two weeks before school started and our teachers for their ability to adjust to a new way of instruction. Now that students are connecting with their teachers remotely, we are learning the true needs for access to reliable internet connections. In areas of the county with strong cell service, hotspots provide a valuable link for students to learning. We are grateful to the county commissioners for recognizing this need and approving funding for 750 hotspots.”

Johnnie Carswell, Chairman of the Burke County Board of Commissioners said, “The Burke County Board of Commissioners recognize the importance of education and are thrilled to be able to provide the additional hotspots. The County Commissioners have worked diligently for years to get internet providers to serve Burke County’s rural and underserved areas and it will remain a top challenge / priority for the Board.”

Burke County Public Schools conducted a survey early in the summer and 10.5% of the 1,158 surveyed said they lack access to reliable, high speed internet. Now that students have devices in hand at home, the district sees the need for hotspots is even greater than originally anticipated. 

Putnam said, “As we know, hotspots are only as good as the cellphone reception in the area. We have parts of Burke County that have no cell service, and we appreciate the commissioners looking into that need as well. No doubt there are even more students, and even teachers too, who could benefit from hotspots if they had cell service near their homes.”

Burke County Public Schools has mapped out locations around the county that have free, open wifi available in parking lots. In addition to school parking lots, churches, libraries, fire departments, and businesses have stepped up and offered to open up their wifi to students.

Putnam said, “This does not mean that the students have to sit in mom's and dad's car to complete their work. Once they are at the wifi location, they can download their assignments or their teacher's video lesson for the day on their device and then work offline from home. Then they can return to the wifi to upload their completed work and receive their next assignments.”

Also stepping up to help fill the need for hotspots are the Morganton Housing Authority and Burke County United Way. The Housing Authority has added wifi access for students and the United Way has launched a campaign to raise community donations to purchase hotspots. 


Putnam said, "People's true colors come through in the midst of a crisis, and I am proud to say that our community is shining brightly in the midst of this pandemic. We are so grateful for the Burke County United Way's efforts to rally the community and raise funding to purchase hotspots for our students. In life and in education, technology is a great equalizer. These actions from our county commissioners, the city of Morganton and United Way prove that government and nonprofits can come together and impact the lives of so many of our students, and for this we are extremely grateful.”

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