On Wednesday, June 2, the Patterson Joint Unified School District set up a drive through Chromebook distribution event at the district office located at 530 Keystone Blvd. The district was one chosen by Frontier Communications and the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) to distribute 500 Chromebooks to families who could use them. The CETF secured the Chromebooks amidst the pandemic in hopes to help families continue to stay connected and close the digital divide.

According to a press release by the PJUSD, the devices in conjunction with the school districts’ web initiative on internet connectivity, will help expand the current 70 percent of students who have internet access through the district and lean towards helping families as well.

“Many parents and guardians still experience limited access to reliable devices and network connectivity,” reads the press release. “Further, while access to the district network and devices are available to parents, use is often limited since the district's firewall is more geared towards student use and the Chromebook devices are often occupied by their children for schoolwork.”

The recipients of the Chromebooks, which was decided upon according to Free and Reduced Meal Program eligibility, will have the option to opt-in to an affordable internet service plan through Frontier Communications.

“The district recognizes the importance for not only students to have internet access, but for their parents and guardians to have access as well. Internet connection is no longer a luxury but a necessity in today’s society. Parents not only need reliable internet to understand and support their children with schoolwork or to meet remotely with teachers and/or school administrators, but they also need access for other essential needs such as for bills or for health and medical reasons.”

Chromebook recipients were required to complete the “Parent Digital Access Survey” and the “Digital Skills Training Workshop” before picking up their device. These measures were taken to learn more about families' network connectivity access and so they can get a quick competency rundown to make sure they know how to use their new devices to the best of their ability.

The Patterson Unified School District continues with their efforts to prioritize community orientation through technological access and education. Their one-to-web initiative first started in 2015 and was intended solely to distribute Chromebooks for in-class use in Kindergarten through grade 5 and in-home use for grades 6 through 12. Five years later when the pandemic started the PJUSD was prepared to provide at-home devices for every student in the district and their focus shifted to network connectivity.

“Beginning in October 2020, the district began installing LTE towers at each of its eight school sites. These towers expanded the district’s broadband network to residential areas throughout the school district. District-provided network access not only provided a free, secure and reliable internet access for students, especially under the distance learning and hybrid models of education, but also provided a more long-term solution for connectivity than the hotspots that were deployed prior to the tower installations.”

The collaboration between Frontier Communications, the CETF, and the Patterson Joint Unified School District to ensure qualifying families have access to hardware and connectivity is an encouraging sign for the future of the community and of education.

For more information on the PJUSD’s programs and initiatives, please visit: www.patterson.k12.ca.us and they can be followed at www.facebook.com/PJUSD95363. For more information regarding low-cost internet, visit: www.everyoneon.org/cetf.

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