By: Dr. Felicia Adams
In our increasingly digital world, equitable access to the internet is paramount for students and their families. To shrink the digital divide and create this access, schools and the administrators that lead them must pursue every resource available, especially outside-the-box partners and solutions.
Without access to the internet, many students are deprived of information and connectivity that are foundational to literacy, advancement, and skills building. Without access to these basic pathways to most Americans’ way of life, students are ultimately left behind. It is critically important for school administrators and educators to find allied champions for digital equity in this struggle. That is why Southwest Public Schools partnered with Houston’s largest internet provider, Comcast, to focus on ensuring that every student has internet access year-round.
After 26 years of experience in urban education, I now serve as the Superintendent at Southwest Public Schools, a tuition-free, open-enrollment school system where students are accepted regardless of background, academic record, or where they live. We strive to prepare our students for postsecondary readiness, and we have had to reckon with the fact that success often relies on whether students have access to the tools they need to be competitive in the digital world. After a K-12 education, our students will also need to adapt to a world where online job searching, remote working, telehealth appointments, and more have become the norm. Through partnerships like Comcast, we are able to bridge the gap and ensure our students have the resources they need to matriculate to life beyond high school.
Across Houston, many students do not have reliable access to the internet at home, particularly those who are from lower-income households – which include many of the students we teach at Southwest Public Schools. One in 10 Houston area households don’t have both an internet subscription and a computer, according to the U.S. Census.
It is clear that this is a problem for our students. The challenge, however, lies in accessing the proper resources to provide our students with the tools they need to succeed. Southwest Public Schools has taken steps to remedy this; our goal is to be a 1:1 district, which means we provide our students with the technology that they need to complete their schoolwork like laptops, tablets, and smart TVs in our classrooms – however, our strategy to connect our students to digital resources doesn’t stop there. We depend on partnerships to assist us with this purpose.
At Southwest Public Schools, we believe genuine transformation requires disruptive innovations. Innovation in education means leveraging every available resource and ally in the struggle to provide for our students in an increasingly digital world. Our partnership with Comcast is intended to do just that.
Comcast and Southwest Public Schools have been hosting community resource events to provide students with technology and the opportunity to access free internet. Southwest Public Schools and Comcast have hosted over 100 low-income and under-resourced families from the community to donate Chromebook laptops to the school system and provide every eligible attendee with free or discounted Internet through Comcast’s Internet Essentials (IE) and the Federal Government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). We will continue to partner with Comcast to ensure that every student and family is aware of the free and discounted internet options at their fingertips.
Since Southwest Public Schools first opened in 1998, our teachers and administrators have been dedicated to transforming our students’ lives. Through this unique partnership with Comcast, doors have been open to innovation and other aspects of providing equitable resources to all students.