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State leaders hoping to save school districts time and money by finding best internet deals for online learning

Posted at 1:08 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 18:44:38-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s crunch time for school districts throughout Ohio as leaders work to finalize their back to school plan. For many districts, online learning will be a big part of that plan.

Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted said they want to make sure each school district has equal access to high-quality internet, at a good price.

Husted said the state has issued an RFI (Request for Information) through Innovate Ohio, Broadband Ohio, Department of Administrative Services, the Department of Education and the Management Council for pricing from internet providers for everything from hotspots to laptops, to tablets for schools.

“Many of you are aware of students who end up in library parking lots to do their homework, or many kids who are trying to gain access through the Wi-Fi that the local school may be riding through buses. So, these are stopgap measures, but they certainly don't provide the access that is needed,” said Husted. “We know, also, that to participate in the modern economy, the modern education system, the modern health care system, you need to have this access. We have to do that. We have to make our best effort available to provide distance learning during this health crisis.”

Once all the information from those groups and agencies are gathered, the state will then provide a one-stop-shop website where schools can find the most affordable options when it comes to online learning for their district.

“School districts that have been trying to make these rapid decisions about technology,” he said. “They're not experts. We know that each school district, trying to find out this information on their own can be cumbersome and they may not get the best deal. We are working with these schools to identify a centralized location where they can find pricing information, purchase hotspots, equipment to help provide Internet for students at home.”

The state has also set aside $50 million, pending upcoming Controlling Board approval, from state funding through the federal CARES Act to provide hotspots and internet-enabled devices to students, said Gov. Mike DeWine in a tweet. He also said InnovateOhio and ODOT have also launched an E-Permitting System for right-of-way access. This new system replaces a paper-only right-of-way permitting system w/ an online process that is more convenient for those requesting a permit.