Mother and daughter at laptop

As virtual schools set to open this month, St. Louis County is working to ensure that students have the Internet access and devices they need for online classes. 

County Executive Sam Page announced Aug. 2 that the county will be purchasing 12,500 mobile hotspots and 2,500 tablet computers using $4 million in CARES Act funding. A mobile hotspot allows users to wirelessly connect their devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to the Internet.

Page recommended in July that schools operate as virtual as possible this fall, due to the continued spike in the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus. The COVID-19 pandemic forced some school districts -- including St. Louis Public Schools, Hazelwood, Parkway and Kirkwood -- to announce they were doing total online student learning at least for the first semester of the next school year, which starts in August for most students.

However, a school district survey in March by the St. Louis County Library found that more than 10,000 households in St. Louis County do not have Internet service or a device to connect to the Internet. A recent report showed that 36% of Missouri students lack home Internet and that Black students are less likely than their white peers to have adequate internet access.

“This year – the year of COVID-19 – internet access is a basic school supply,” Page said. “But it’s a school supply that just isn’t accessible to thousands of our residents.” 

The county is providing additional support by offering online professional tutoring to every student in a St. Louis County school. Provided by tutor.com, the online tutoring will be available 12 hours a day every day of the week.

Page said the county is working with the St. Louis County Library and school districts to provide the hotspots and tablets to every family in need. 

“I am committed to doing what it takes to make sure that no child goes without the tools they need to be successful in virtual school this fall,” Page said. “If more hotspots or tablets are needed, we’ll invest what we have to in order to meet our goal.

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