This last year has been bad for many, not just because of the coronavirus, but schools closing or operating part-time and many parents working from home. All of that works if those homes have internet access and many don’t.
A casualty of the pandemic was Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s plans for Erie Net, a 360-mile broadband backbone across. The cost to municipal finance has been too high, as more essential pandemic-related expenses take priority. However, Poloncarz on Wednesday said the new federal stimulus bill will pay for the system, with planning and engineering now to start this year.
Akron School Superintendent Pa
trick McCabe knows why it’s needed, with 10% of his students unable to connect to the web.
"Essentially, it’s an infrastructure issue, that there aren’t accessible internet towers out there for families to connect with," McCabe said. "So even if they have a device or have the ability to afford internet, there is no infrastructure for them to connect with."
McCabe said even if kids are back in class five days a week, better web access is needed to let parents work from home and kids do their homework.
Akron Schools also resumed in-person attendance of Board of Education meetings Wednesday evening. Attendees are required to wear masks at all times, maintain social distance, have their temperature taken and complete a health-screening questionnaire before proceed to the high school's cafeteria, "where socially distanced seating will be available."
WBFO's Marian Hetherly contributed to this story.