The Lafayette Parish School Board is considering plans to spend up to $1.5 million to help needy families with internet access as the system considers virtual learning options for students.

The proposal would provide money for the district’s Link and Learn internet program, a partnership with local providers to offer low-cost, open, wireless internet for qualifying families of Lafayette students.

The aim is to prepare families for virtual learning, which students will do at least half of the time as they start school in a blended model Aug. 17. They’ll alternate days on campus and days of remote learning at home. Or students could choose a fully virtual option.

More: Louisiana schools: What will Lafayette’s blended model for school look like for my child?

More: School reopening: See the plans for Lafayette Parish charter schools’ plans for reopening

School closures this spring highlighted the technology gap faced by students across the state, as 35 parishes reported to the Louisiana Department of Education that more than 50% of their students do not have home internet access.

Lafayette Parish reported 80% of its students have home internet or can use a cellular hotspot. The system has purchased 3,700 devices this summer to bring the district to a one-to-one student-technology ratio and will have smart buses and Wi-Fi boosters on each school campus.

All of this comes at a cost, some of which will be covered by federal grant money through the CARES Act, including new allocations from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Incentive Fund, according to estimates in school board documents.

Board members are considering transferring money to assist in covering the costs of providing temporary internet access for a maximum of a year to qualifying students due to COVID-19 school attendance restrictions. This would help students who do not currently have the access required to complete online assignments.  

It would be a one-time transfer of up to $615,000 from the Capital Projects Reserve for 21/22 Projects to the district’s General Fund, added to federal grant money to provide a maximum of $1.5 million available.

More: Lafayette Parish School System: Classroom teachers can wear scrubs this fall

More: What does going back to school look like in Acadiana? See start dates, plans here

The board also needs to allocate the new CARES Act resources that the district recently received  — $429,047 from ESSERF and $823,406 from GEERF — as special revenue in its budget.

Money from the governor’s emergency fund can go toward technology devices and internet connectivity. The elementary and secondary grant money can be used for:

  • additional materials or online access required for distance learning for the system’s approved Tier I curriculum
  • software licenses required for career and technical education and non-core curriculum for individual students
  • subscriptions to online course and content provides or CTE and non-core curriculum materials required to transition to virtual learning
  • work with one or more approved planning partners for individual graduation planning for students in grades 9-1 and/or college career transitions for graduated seniors
  • English learner supports required for distance learning for the school system’s approved Tier I curriculum
  • augmentative and alternative communication devices for students with disabilities
  • training on remote service delivery to students with disabilities from organizations with the Continuous Learning designation on the Partnerships for Success Guide
  • work with one or more approved professional learning partners in the Louisiana Department of Education’s Profesional Development Vendor Guide
  • partner with an organization listed on the Maximizing Learning Time through Adaptive and Flexible Staffing Plans
  • 4-year-old seats to ensure the school system maintains the number of 4-year-old seats filled in the SY19-20 school year

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