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Watauga High School to issue hotspots to students with no home internet access

WHS Students work on Chromebooks at the high school.

Watauga High School Senior Bailey Whitehead-Price and Junior Aaron Mutio work on their school chromebooks during an art class.

Access to reliable high speed internet at home is something many people take for granted across the country, but Watauga County, like many rural communities, is home to some areas where broadband internet is not readily available.

Watauga County Schools — which provides computers to every student in eighth through twelfth grade to take home — recently received a grant from the 1Million Project that hopes to address internet access issues for Watauga High School students at home.

The 1Million Project grant will issue WCS students without home internet access with a wireless cellular hotspot that allows for a high speed internet connection from any location free of charge.

Providing internet coverage all hours of the day, the devices operate on cellular network technology that may cover areas across the county that hard-wired networks haven’t yet reached.

WHS Students were polled about their level of internet access at the start of the school year as their computers were issued. More than 100 high schoolers indicated they did not have broadband access in their home.

Watuaga County Schools Technology Director Nancy Zeiss, who led the effort to bring the 1Million Project grant to the system, said ensuring student’s access to high speed internet was vital to a modern education.

“It’s increasingly important that our students are able to reliably access the internet from home,” Zeiss said. “Through their own self-reporting and conversations with teachers and counselors, we hope to get these devices in the hands of students who need them most. I think it will have a tremendous impact for those students who have struggled to access online school work from home in the past.”

Watauga High School is set to hold an information session for families who indicated interest in receiving a hotspot at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 27 in the WHS auditorium. The meeting will provide an overview of the program and allow interested students to sign up for a device.

Zeiss said she hoped to have the devices in student hands in early September.

For more information, call the Watauga High School help desk at (828) 264-2407, Ext. 12209.