Greenbrier County Schools (GCS) applied for and received $2.8 million in funding to assist families in obtaining FREE new or improved Internet connection from the time of service in 2022 to June 30, 2023. The Emergency Connectivity Fund grant program, sponsored through federal funds from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), was created to help families struggling to pay for Internet service during the COVID pandemic. The funding has been extended through June 2023 to enable counties to implement the program effectively. The extensive scope of the grant meant a 16-month wait to hear about the award. "We had just about given up hope that the grant would come through," Director of Technology Dr. Vicky Cline said, "and we are so excited that our families will have this opportunity to improve their Internet connections."
GCS applied for all families in Greenbrier County, and those who qualified for specific services will receive letters and information soon. GCS prioritized fiber through Optimum (formerly Suddenlink/Altice), followed by DLS/cable through Frontier/Shentel, and then, for the most remote families, satellite through Hughes. Families who cannot be served by the companies listed above may qualify to receive hotspots that will allow anywhere, anytime connection. Families who receive letters will be able to contact vendors and receive free Internet service through June 30, 2023.
GCS hopes the program will continue beyond June 2023, but if not, the initial connection/hotspots will already be in place for families to continue service should they desire to do so after the June 30, 2023, deadline. Vendors will report to Greenbrier County Schools because all equipment must be inventoried and accounted for by Greenbrier County Schools; however, vendors will be working directly with families to set up, maintain, and repair services/equipment.
Greenbrier County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bryant highlighted the importance of assisting families with an Internet connection. "We understand the importance for our families and students to have an internet connection so that the extensive technology resources that the Greenbrier County Board of Education provides for students can be used productively," Bryant said. "This grant will support the extensive curriculum created by teachers for the benefit of all students, giving them access to educational materials to enhance the learning experience outside the in-school environment."
Bryant continued, "Fortunately, the $2.8 million Emergency Connectivity Fund grant Greenbrier County Schools received will provide great opportunities. Qualified families will receive internet connection that will strengthen the inclusion of families as valuable members of Greenbrier County Schools' Community-minded public school system."
The grant also includes take-home tablets for all students in grades PreK-4, who will receive a device preloaded with educational programs to help them build literacy and numeric skill sets. These devices, for GCS's youngest students, will remain the property of Greenbrier
County Schools, but according to Technology Specialist Emily McCourt, "Parents will play an important role in supervising student use, as these devices will be on their home Internet." Parents will receive information about the devices, which are expected to go home during the fall semester.
Please direct questions about the grant to GCS Technology Department at (304) 647-6484.