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Area schools receive $2.2 million to expand internet access

The Federal Communications Commission is sending $2.27 million to public and private schools in the Charlottesville area, which can be used to purchase equipment to help students connect to the internet.

Congress put $7.17 billion into the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund Program earlier this year when adopting the American Rescue Plan Act. About $49 million of that money went to Virginia schools and libraries, according to a news release from the U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

Making sure students could log on to online classes from home was a top priority for school systems after schools closed in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. In response, the school divisions purchased hotspots and laptops. In one cases, they built their own wireless units to provide internet to the community.

Schools and libraries had to apply in order to be considered for funding. In the area, the Louisa County school division received the most at $1,075,105. Across the mountain, Staunton City Schools received $1.3 million.

Orange County school division received $630,000 while Nelson County schools received $233,620.20. The other school systems receiving funding in the area include Charlottesville, Greene County and Madison County. The Covenant School and Charlottesville Waldorf School also received money.

Information about how the school divisions planned to spend the money was not included in Tuesday’s announcement.

The money was issued in three waves starting in late September with the last batch arriving this week, according to the release.

“We’re proud to see these federal dollars go toward keeping Virginia’s communities connected. This investment will help close the digital divide, while improving access to job opportunities and educational resources for Virginians as we continue to recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” the senators said in the release.

The money can go toward buying Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, laptops or tablets, according to the FCC, as well as purchasing broadband internet access services such as a fiber. School systems also can apply for reimbursement for eligible equipment that was bought after March 1, 2020.

The money can not be used for administrative costs, Zoom subscriptions, learning management systems, headsets or cell phones, among others, per the FCC.


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