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Millions of high school-aged students across the country do not have access to reliable Internet at home—but 70 percent of  teachers assign homework to be completed online, which results in dramatically uneven outcomes among students. Sarasota County Schools, with the assistance of Sprint's 1Million Project Foundation, aims to bridge that gap for nearly 1,000 students in Sarasota County.

The school district was recently selected by the 1Million Project to participate in its national initiative to help 1 million low-income high school students across the country by providing them with free high-speed Internet access at home. In the district’s first year of participation, Sprint will offer wireless hotspots to more than 850 students identified by the district. In subsequent years, students in need might also receive free wireless devices through the program. 

The school district’s participation in the program grew from conversations between district administrators and Gulf Coast Community Foundation about ways to level the playing field for students in need. GCCF president and CEO Mark Pritchett worked with assistant superintendent Dr. Laura Kingsley to evaluate the opportunity; GCCF also funded the grant-writing services necessary to successfully apply for the 1Million Project grant.

“We are so thankful to be a part of this initiative,” ssaysid Dr. Laura Kingsley, assistant superintendent and Chief Academic Officer of Sarasota County Schools. “It is vital for our students to have access to resources that will help them succeed because we want learning and discovery to be a lifelong pursuit for all our students. We appreciate community partners like Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Sprint for realizing the necessity of reducing the opportunity gaps for our students.”

In May, Sarasota County Schools will begin the survey process to identify students who will be offered a free Wi-Fi hotspot through the grant. The district expects to distribute hotspots to students in August, prior to the start of the new school year. Sarasota County Schools intends to focus on rising eighth graders, as their hotspot will remain in their possession throughout high school and graduation.

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