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Holding them back

Holding them back Holding them back

Lack of broadband internet access making it harder for area students

The Gilman School Board hosted their meeting electronically on March 30, to keep in compliance with Gov. Evers’ emergency orders.

Only board members and administration were allowed in the meeting room and the public was able to view the meeting by logging online or dialing in to listen.

Superintendent Wally Leipart addressed the lack of quality internet in the area, and how they are trying to remedy it so all students can reliably use the online e-school learning tools.

“As we full well know, our community doesn’t have 100% saturation of a broadband access to internet. We are working as best as we possibly can with service providers to increase the access,” he said, while reminding parents they can talk to their internet providers, who will increase their bandwidth in order to provide students with better access to the e-school. “It’s in the FCC regulations: when they sign on for providing broadband, in a state of emergency, they need to increase bandwidth.” Despite the regulations, the school has been running into problems with internet providers dragging their feet in helping students access e-learning.

“I tried to get AT& T hotspots three weeks ago. I was told I could get them in two weeks. Last week, at the beginning of the week, they told me it would be more like 30 to 45 days. By the end of the week they told me 60 to 90 days,” Leipart said. “It unfortunately appears, unless something miraculous happens here in the next week, that it’s probably not going to be an option.”

While internet is still limited, the school will use short-term solutions until a more permanent one can be found.

“We do have a handful of Verizon packs that came in, we are going to do that on a priority basis, we want to make sure our seniors can move on,” said Leipart.

The school is also trying to work with the city to set up a hotspot location that anyone can stop by to access internet for a period of time, so they can get any online information they may need.

Teachers will be held accountable for their classes much in the same way they are now, and be responsible for student progression and maintaining contact with students via phone or internet.

“We expect teachers to have a lesson plan for the students each day,” said Leipart. “Teachers are going to basically have office hours, where students have access to them from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m.”

Leipart admitted that some school workers, mostly paraprofessionals, may be laid off by the end of the week on April 3.

“It’s not a performance issue,” he explained. “We simply may not have work for them.”

The board looked at the school’s transportation contract and made the decision to reduce the bus drivers’ pay by $30 a day for 47 days; across the school’s six drivers, that cumulates to $8,460 saved on the contract. As the school continues to provide meals free of charge, the bus drivers are responsible for delivering the meals to each home.

After 19 years teaching math and chemistry at Gilman, Tammy Olson resigned, and is moving on to a new job.