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DeKalb Schools announces partnership with Sprint to bridge digital divide for students

DeKalb Schools officials teamed up with cell phone carrier Sprint to give internet access to 200 students, as connectivity has become a part of life and many students don’t have Internet access at home.

Officials handed out wireless hotspots at an event this morning at the district’s Barack H. Obama Elementary Magnet School of Technology, where cheerleaders greeted district administration and Sprint officials. Superintendent Steve Green arrived for the presentation in a Sprint-branded Fiat.

With Internet access needed for more than two-thirds of homework, students often end up frequenting fast-food restaurants with free internet access or sitting outside the school using WiFi there to get their work done.

"One of the issues we face is all our students don't have access to the internet at home,” said Angela Thomas-Bethea, Obama Elementary’s principal. “To see this come to fruition at our school ... is so profound."

The partnership is part of the wireless retailer’s pledge to provide internet access to 50,000 students in low-income K-12 school districts through ConnectED, a national initiative from President Barack Obama’s administration aimed at ending the digital divide.

Educators have stressed the importance of bridging the digital divide for decades as options for learning advance technologically. Google has recently awarded grants for similar initiatives, including one in South Carolina where school buses were outfitted with WiFi.

“This expanded learning opportunity will help students keep on pace with their lessons, and support long-term achievement,” Green said. “This is one more obstacle to success that has been removed for our students.”

Laura Howard, a fourth-grade student at Obama Elementary, thanks those in attendance for providing connectivity for students.

"Because of your donation, the Internet is available to us wherever we go," she said.

Brian Miller, Sprint president for Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, said as an Atlanta resident, he’s glad to help eliminate achievement blockades for the area’s students.

“Learning should never consist of interruptions or inconvenience,” he said. “It’s our goal that for some of the students at this DeKalb County elementary school Sprint will eliminate the need for them stay late into the evening at school or to go to a place of business with public WiFi. 

“With these devices, we are closing the homework gap for 200 students here in Georgia.”

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