Tens of thousands of Oklahoma students will have better access to the internet for distance learning when classes resume this fall.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education is buying 50,000 internet hotspots with Verizon to help families get connected this fall.
Many families struggle with virtual classes because they have spotty internet access or none at all. Now, 175 school districts across the state will be getting help to get those students in need on board.
Tulsa Public Schools says there's a significant divide in the city. Superintendent Deborah Gist says one-third of TPS families don't have reliable internet access at home. It's a big barrier to students trying to learn virtually.
Niki Grauberger is the PTA President at Clinton West Elementary.
"On our side of town, there's a lot of kids who don't have access to the internet. So, I think it's very important for distance learning to be successful," Grauberger said.
She says internet access and childcare are some of the bigger challenges for parents because of COVID-19. TPS is getting more than 10,000 hotspots through the State Department of Education's program with Verizon.
"It's going to be imperative for those kids who don't have the internet to have one of the hotspots," Grauberger said.
Other districts like Oklahoma City, Fort Gibson, Coweta, AND Claremore are getting them too.
Valerie James says where she and her daughter live in rural Mayes County, many families don't have reliable internet connections.
"My phone, I've got two bars right now, sometimes I'm lucky to have that. I think that's a common problem out here," James said.
The state requires districts to assign the hotspots to low-income students, but districts can buy more for other students and staff.
Grauberger says based on her talks with TPS leaders, families should expect distance learning this semester to be much smoother than it was in the spring.
"I'm super happy they're getting those hotspots to be able to give out to our students, that's going to be so helpful," Grauberger said.
A full list of the districts getting hotspots, as well as how many each district is getting CLICK HERE