LR mayor and chief education officer announce broadband, Literacy expansion

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. and Chief Education Officer Dr. Jay Barth announced September as Education Month and several key initiatives Thursday afternoon.

Officials with the city of Little Rock say one of the key initiatives includes increasing access to broadband and expansion of virtual opportunities for strengthening student literacy.

Dr. Barth said in a few weeks, city officials will announce the first four community schools.

Barth also said the second educational roundtable will be held virtually on September 29 and hosted by Mayor Scott.

“It bears repeating that our city’s future is dependent on how well we train and prepare the next generation and continue to invest in our workforce,” Scott said. “I’m eager to hear findings and recommendations from our partners who participated in our 2019 Roundtable. We must develop the innovative solutions today to ensure our city’s continued growth.”

The chief education officer said the city is going to continue to support Little Rock families as they face school issues due to the pandemic.

Dr. Barth said to a vibrant 21st Century citizen, there must be they key principles of digital equity: equity and connectivity, equity and appropriate device as well as equity and digital literacy.

Barth said the best place to do homework is at home. The chief education officer said, “we know that a number are learning at home now”. Dr. Barth said there needs to be plans for contingencies.

Barth announced the city is purchasing a little more than 1,000 additional hot spots. Most are going to the Little Rock School District but some are going to the Pulaski County Special School District, according to the chief education officer.

City officials also announced Thursday the launch of the supplemental elementary-level literacy program Lexia in the Little Rock School Distritct.

The Central Arkansas Library System also plans to pilot a hotspot checkout program at its branches.

City officials announced the create broadband access in city facilities, such as community centers and seek reimbursement from the state CARES Act allocation for cities to cover initial costs.

“Despite the availability of broadband service across almost all of the city, there is ongoing income-based digital inequity in Little Rock,” Mayor Scott said Thursday. “The digital divide is not just a rural issue in our state. It is also an urban issue, one that has been magnified during the coronavirus pandemic. Through partnerships with both LRSD and PCSSD, we have created a short-term response to get students connected at home.”

“We are appreciative of Mayor Scott’s initiative to help bridge the digital divide, Supt. Poore stated. “Delivering universal access to connected devices, and providing digital support helps ensure that our students have the tools to succeed in the classroom and beyond. I love that the City of Little Rock, LRSD, and PCSSD all are targeting efforts toward students and families who need this bridge of support to have success in our classrooms.“

“The last six months have taught us a lot about hope, but also the opportunity gaps and infrastructure needs,” Supt. McNulty said. “We’re proud to stand with the City of Little Rock to ensure that we get the right devices to students wherever they are.”

City officials also announced a partnership with the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub to provide virtual classes on how to use the computer ad software. A hotline for parents will later be announced.

“Through this grant, we will empower families to take full advantage of the tremendous tools being made available by the Little Rock School District,” said Dr. Chris Jones, Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub director. “Many parents are frustrated and unsure of how to assist their students, and we’re ready to ease the angst associated with unfamiliar technology.”

“Digital equity includes ensuring that all our residents have access to connectivity, devices, and digital literacy,” Dr. Barth said. “Through these partnerships, we are doing a good job to meet the needs of our students during this extraordinary school year. We will continue the work to be sure all residents of Little Rock have ongoing access to a service that is as fundamental as water or electricity to life in the 21st century.” 


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