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WVSOM joins Kids Connect initiative to offer WiFi hot spot

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LEWISBURG, W.Va. — School-aged children in Greenbrier County have another WiFi hot spot option for use in completing schoolwork, located at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) campus in Lewisburg, W.Va.

The medical school is the latest institution in the county to participate in West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s Kids Connect program that aims to expand broadband internet access for students in the state. The initiative involves creating hot spots for kids who don’t have reliable internet connectivity at home but who are attending school virtually and need to access online classes or receive assignments.

More than 1,000 public locations across the state with established internet connections, including public schools, higher education institutions, libraries and state parks, are being turned into external wireless hot spots. WVSOM is one of more than 20 locations in Greenbrier County to offer internet access, which is available to school-aged students in the WVSOM Library parking lot.

The project is financed by up to $6 million in federal COVID-19 stimulus funding, and is a collaborative effort among the governor’s Office of Technology, the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

Kim Ransom, WVSOM’s chief technology officer, said the connectivity is completely separate from the medical school’s network, providing a safe online environment. Establishing a connection was a simple process — offering access through the school’s network to the statewide network.

“I think this is a great contribution to the community, particularly for students who may not have access to broadband at home or who don’t have any connection to the internet,” Ransom said. “Our library parking lot is also a safe area, which is one reason we are offering a hot spot location there. Our security office, staffed by West Virginia State Police, is right there, so people who are utilizing the parking spaces should feel safe.”

In Greenbrier County schools, about 35 percent of students don’t have reliable internet access. Half of those students live in areas underserved by internet service providers, and half come from families where affordability is an issue, according to Vicky Cline, Ph.D., director of technology and assessment for Greenbrier County Schools.

Cline said the county school system appreciates the initiative, which quickly created access points for students to access the internet.

“In sixth through 12th grade, 35 percent of students are completely remote. The other 65 percent of students in those grades are going to school for two days a week and are learning remotely three days a week. The Kids Connect program complements the efforts of county schools to offer internet access to students.”

There was no question that WVSOM would participate in an initiative that provides free educational tools to kids who need them, said WVSOM President James W. Nemitz, Ph.D.

“One of the things we focus on at WVSOM is involvement in the community. When there is an opportunity to collaborate with the community in a positive way, we will want to do our part,” he said. “Part of our mission is to educate students as lifelong learners, so of course we want to endorse learning among school-aged children here in Greenbrier County.”

Other hot spots in Greenbrier County include: the White Sulphur Springs Public Library; White Sulphur Springs Elementary School; Lewisburg Readiness Center in Maxwelton; Crichton Elementary in Quinwood; Greenbrier West High School in Charmco; Rainelle Elementary; Rainelle Public Library; Rupert Public Library; Rupert Elementary School; Western Greenbrier Middle School; Smoot Elementary School; Alderson Elementary; Eastern Greenbrier Middle School, Ronceverte; New River Community and Technical College – Greenbrier Valley Campus, Lewisburg; Lewisburg Elementary; Greenbrier County Public Library, Lewisburg; Ronceverte Elementary; Ronceverte Public Library; Greenbrier East High School, Lewisburg; and, Greenbrier School of Practical Nursing, Lewisburg.

WiFi hot spot in Monroe County include: Mountain View Elementary and Middle School, Union; Monroe County Public Library, Union; and Monroe County Vocational Center, Lindside; Peterstown Middle School.

Visit https://wvde.us/potential-wifi-access-locations to view a map of WiFi locations throughout West Virginia.

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