School officials grapple with how to solve the access issue

WiFi-accessReplacing some Hamilton County students’ textbooks with iPads was a move intended to boost faltering public education performance.

Tablets were more engaging that their printed predecessors, and they opened up a world wide web of opportunity. Have a question? Just Google it. Plus, they prepared students for the ever-changing work world, in which even jobs flipping hamburgers require an application online.

But school officials say there is one big problem. Many of the students, once home with their brand-new devices, don’t have internet access and likely won’t get it.

“For some time now, we’ve identified ourselves as a technological community,” Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith said. Still, he said, “there’s going to be lots of kids that don’t have access at home.”

Roughly 3,380 tablets and laptop computers have been assigned to county school students, covering about 8 percent of the total student population. The devices, funded through grants and foundations, are being tested to assess the value of their broader use.

(Next page: The ever-present access issue)