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Santa Fe, school district weigh Wi-Fi hot spots

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Santa Fe city councilors on Wednesday will consider partnering with Santa Fe Public Schools to make Wi-Fi available to citizens across the city.

The agreement would use city funds to set up Wi-Fi hot spots at 11 proposed locations around Santa Fe, giving the public internet access already available at these sites.

The proposed agreement comes as all public schools in New Mexico have closed their campuses and shifted to online learning amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Now, the district is trying to ensure students can access online learning materials while in-person classes are canceled.

“We’re trying to make sure all our kids have internet from areas as close as possible to where they live,” said Tom Ryan, the district’s chief information officer.

Access to internet varies across Santa Fe, a disparity reflected in a recent survey conducted by the district’s principals, with many schools on the south side of the city having the least amount of access.

At Nava Elementary, for example, 14% of families have no access to internet at home. Salazar, Sweeney and Kearney elementaries also had high rates of those lacking internet access.

And for Capital High School, which serves parts of the city’s south side, 6.4% of families have no internet access. By comparison, just 1.6% of families with students attending Santa Fe High don’t have access to the internet.

Sean Moody, who is overseeing the project for the city, said they have taken this geographic gap into consideration, with most proposed hot spot locations being on the south side of town.

“Where’s the most bang for your buck? It’s on the south side,” he said.

Moody said he is currently drafting contracts for the project, which he expects will not exceed $90,000. The money is being funded from a previous bond issue.

If approved, initial hot spots will be installed within the next week, Moody said. After that, the city will spend the next several weeks upgrading internet quality at each site to improve speed and connectivity.

The district will manage devices at its school sites after installation, Ryan said.

Moody said that, while some areas have a greater need, internet should be made available to all parts of the city.

“Everybody in the community understands how important that is,” he said.

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