School Business Affairs February 2020

40 FEBRUARY 2020 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS How one rural district brought broadband to its students. Bringing Metropolitan Education to Rural Indiana By Ralph Shrader and Cory Childs technology T he digital divide in rural com- munities in the United States directly affects students and their education. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 24 million Americans lack access to a sustainable broadband network. Although just 4% of people living in urban communities have no broadband access, access increases to 31% of Americans in rural communities. Ninety percent of high school students say they are required to complete digitally based homework, which requires the Inter- net, at least a few times a month. Because an estimated five million U.S. households with school-age children lack a sustainable broadband connection, parents must shuttle their kids to access locations like McDon- ald’s so they can complete their homework. Imagine what happens when a school itself doesn’t have the broadband access needed to assign online homework. Imag- ine a school district that must shut down a building’s Internet so one class of students has the available bandwidth to take a state- mandated test. That was the situation at the Municipal School District (MSD) of Warren County, Indiana. The Challenges Warren County is a rural community in west central Indiana, bordered by the Wabash River and the Illinois state line. With 8,200 residents, it has the third-smallest county population and the second-lowest popula- tion density in the state. The county has three elementary schools and one junior– senior high school for its 1,300 students. The residents of this small remote loca- tion are hampered from receiving reliable Internet or cell service by hilly terrain and the high cost of satellite connections—a problem that has extended to MSD of War- ren County. The district tried to keep pace with the rest of the state’s move to a one-to-one School staff in MSD Warren County, Indiana, finally are able to leverage the benefits of broadband. MAIMENTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM