Southwest, Central Virginia schools work to bridge digital divide

Districts want students to have access to high-tech tools, broadband internet

LEXINGTON, Va. – Access to fast, reliable internet service isn't a luxury anymore, it's a necessity for many families and businesses in Southwest and Central Virginia.

Local school districts are also working to make sure teachers and students have the resources they need to succeed in a high-tech world, including having broadband internet access.

"The access they have to the plethora of information that's on the internet now, it makes a difference," said Jason Kirby, director of personnel and technology with Rockbridge County Public Schools.

He said students at Maury River Middle School have access to a media lab, and every science, math, social studies and English language arts class has a Chromebook cart.

"We're really working toward 21st century skills," Kirby said. "We want our kids to be able to collaborate and create things."

Kirby said slower internet speeds at one of the district's elementary schools, Mountain View Elementary, can bring daily challenges.

"They purposely go in and they schedule when they're going to do anything intensive with internet," Kirby said. "So the teachers know 'I need to maybe plan something else, or do something that's less internet-intensive.'"

Big Island Elementary School, a part of Bedford County Public Schools, is now opening its doors every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. to give students and families access to the school's computer lab and library. The school's principal said he saw a need for this after-school access and hopes to provide food as a part of the program in the future.

Kirby said Rockbridge County Public Schools is working to get faster internet service at Mountain View soon.

"They handle it very well," Kirby said. "They're a National Blue Ribbon School this past year, but they only have 6 megabytes of internet, so it's not a lot." 

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