The Guam Department of Education is encouraging parents who need technological support at home to apply for assistance.
The Providing Access To Home program provides qualifying families with a wifi device and laptop to help with online learning. It’s funded through the Education Stabilization Fund.
Earlier this year, the department issued 5,000 laptops and 2,300 wifi devices to public school students by June.
“One thing that we are anticipating is that families may now realize that their internet may not be as reliable when you have all three students on Zoom at the same time,” GDOE Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Joseph Sanchez said.
Many families who have chosen the online model of instruction for the school year have multiple students running off of one internet connection, slowing internet bandwidths. To solve this issue GDOE encourages families to apply for additional Mifi devices.
“We still have Mifis available, we've told the schools that students who may have internet challenges at home even if they have Wifi,” Sanchez said.
He said this was one major misconception about the wifi device program.
“A lot of families thought that if they have wifi already they can’t request for a wifi,” Sanchez said.
He said the program initially gave priority to families without home internet services, but now that this part of the student population has been addressed, GDOE is expanding assistance to families needing additional support as a result of insufficient bandwidths.
Families that do receive a wifi device will get 50GB of data. There are mechanisms in place to ensure they are not taken advantage of, officials said. The PATH program is open to public, charter and private school students. Families interested in applying for the program or for additional devices can contact their children’s respective schools.
There are 1,000 wifi devices available through IT&E. That contract expires at the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30.
GDOE is also in the middle of procurement for more devices.
“The reason we are looking at an increased amount is we want to make sure that we have enough available for families that need internet connectivity if we are ever to shut down,” Sanchez said
Guam is faced with an increased number of new daily COVID-19 cases. In the last week or so, there have been more than 200 new cases, several of those being students.
The governor has said certain restrictions could be re-implemented, including capacities in stores and restaurants, and social gathering caps. But no decisions restrictions or shutdowns have been announced.
“We’re really hoping that if there is a shutdown it wouldn’t be a complete shut down because that’s really disruptive,” Sanchez said.
“That requires everyone to have a laptop, and internet connectivity.”
Sanchez pointed out that without sufficient supply of internet devices, students would have to figure out internet access on their own, which isn’t ideal.
“But at the same time we kind of have to prepare for it,” Sanchez said.