The City will provide free Wi-Fi “SuperSpots” to increase internet access for students at home due to school closures to continue distance learning.
The 25 new Wi-Fi spots will be located in areas with the highest need including public housing sites, single-room occupancy buildings, community centers, and other neighborhood locations where there is a concentrated population of students lacking internet connectivity. Each spot, powered by Sprint, will provide internet access for 100 users and will remain in place for the remainder of the school year.
“Every student in San Francisco needs to be able to stay connected to their teachers and classmates and keep learning as they stay home with their families during this time, regardless of where they live or if their family can afford to pay for high-speed internet,” said Mayor London Breed at a press conference Friday. “We know that access to the internet is a barrier to distance learning for many students.”
An estimated 10,000 students in grades three to 12 need access to a device and Wi-Fi to support distance learning at home, while 29% of students do not have internet access at home, according to the San Francisco Unified School District.
On March 25, SFUSD administrators announced an extension of school closures due to COVID- 19 until May 1. All SFUSD schools will begin teacher-guided lessons through distance learning the week of April 13 till the end of the school closures, which is projected to continue till the end of the school year.
“SFUSD is committed to finding equitable ways for our students to continue learning while schools are closed. Having access to a dedicated computer and Wi-Fi is critical for students to sustain the connection to their teachers and educational content,” Superintendent Vincent Matthews said.
Since announcing the school closures on March 16, SFUSD has distributed over 5,000 laptops to students in need. The purchase of an additional 4,000 laptops is planned, Breed said.
Breed said the City will continue to deploy additional Wi-Fi hotspots to complement the existing free internet provided to low-income residents through the Fiber to Housing program. The new “SuperSpots” equipment, installation, and operating costs are fully covered by national nonprofits, the 1Million Project Foundation and EducationSuperHighway.
“It’s been amazing to see the community come together and so many people go out of their way to provide the level of resources that are instrumental to all children in San Francisco having access to tools to learn,” Breed said.