Closing the digital gap for Northern Kentucky students

About 10 percent of the 60,000 K-12 students in Northern Kentucky lack internet service at home. That gap creates unequal access to information, technology, and opportunities to learn. The gap became much more clear in March when schools transitioned to remote learning, as some students could not participate.

To begin to close the gap, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bell and other organizations will provide access to low-cost internet service to more than 1,000 Northern Kentucky families in time for the 2020-21 school year.

The “NKY Digital Equity Initiative for Students” program is focused on increasing digital equity through pilot programs that will be designed to meet the needs of local school districts.

The pilot programs, which start this month, will help identify the best practices necessary to expand the program to additional public school students throughout the summer.

The Northern Kentucky pilot program will focus on districts United Way says have demonstrated the greatest need -- Boone County, Kenton County, Campbell County, Covington Independent Public Schools, Erlanger-Elsmere Independent, Newport Independent, Dayton Independent, Ludlow Independent, and Bellevue Independent. United Way says it is working with local districts to identify the students.

Initial funding from Greater Cincinnati Foundation and Horizon Community Funds will cover 884 Northern Kentucky families. United Way says it expects to raise additional dollars to cover more than 1,000 families total. Organizations and individuals can support Northern Kentucky fund-raising efforts by texting “NKYWIFI” to 71777. A $78 donation will connect a household for six months of service at $12.99 a month, United Way says.

“This allows our students the opportunity to connect to the educational resources available to them both at school and in their house,” says Michael Borchers, superintendent of Ludlow Independent Schools.

Greater Cincinnati Foundation is also funding a similar project with Cincinnati Public Schools, along with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Interact for Health, the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and StrivePartnership.





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Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.