Hotspot Delivery Combats Digital Divide

Philanthropy bridges digital divide for Long Branch families

Jan. 8, 2021 – Since COVID-19 disrupted schools in March, access to web-based school resources has become essential for students. This is especially true for schools like Long Branch Elementary, a Title I school on Jacksonville’s Eastside.

“Many of our parents don’t have internet access,” said Long Branch Elementary School Principal Wayman Graham. “This can negatively impact our students because they don’t have access to educational resources at home. We know that at-home learning is a huge part of a child’s academic success.”

Representatives of the Ball Family Fund recognized this need and worked through The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida and Duval County Public Schools to fund hot spots and internet access for 100 low-income families for up to two years. The families receiving the support have children attending schools like Long Branch, a school that is home to more than 250 students, all of whom meet federal income requirements for free and reduced lunch.

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Dana Kriznar, who works to develop community relationships to support schools, said these partnerships help promote greater equity across the district.

“While the district has met the needs of students on an as-needed basis, those without permanent access to the internet are at a disadvantage compared to their more highly connected peers,” said Dr. Kriznar. “We are extremely thankful to the Ball family and to The Community Foundation for this grant which will help promote achievement for the children and greater engagement between the caregivers and their schools.”

Graham said partnerships like these are vital in our schools today as internet connectivity is becoming more essential to the educational experience.

“Programs like Focus, i-Ready, Freckle, and Khan Academy are all online learning tools for both parents and students that require a reliable internet connection,” said Graham. “The support from the Ball Family Fund could not have come at a better time. Thanks to the support of our community, we can improve student achievement by improving access to learning resources.” 

Long Branch was chosen as a school to benefit from this grant because it is among a cluster of schools on the Eastside that is the focus of LIFT JAX, an initiative of business and community leaders working to eradicate generational poverty in Jacksonville. Earlier this year, LIFT JAX provided laptops for several families at Long Branch and Matthew W. Gilbert Middle School through funding provided by Florida Blue.