ORANGEBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Classes started virtually this week for Orangeburg County students in Pre-K through eighth grade, but at least one family in that district has not been able to begin the new school year due to not having internet access.
Brittany Manigo is a mother of six with students in grades ranging from Pre-K to the eighth grade. She says, while they all have the devices they need to do their work, none of the students in this family have been able to log in for classes yet, all because they don’t have internet.
This is something the Orangeburg County School District is now working to address and has been throughout the summer. Families in the district without internet access have been encouraged to fill out a technology survey expressing these concerns.
Households that meet the income requirements of having 250% or less than federal poverty guidelines will be eligible for a hotspot.
Manigo says not having internet access has made for a difficult start to the new school year.
“So far, not so good. I was trying since last week to get the hotspot with Orangeburg County, but the application, it was down on the internet and they didn’t put it back up until yesterday,” said Manigo.
The mother told WIS-TV, “Now, we’re just waiting to get a callback from the school. So, they currently haven’t been able to log in due to the lack of internet access. So, we’re just waiting, now, to get a callback so that I’ll be able to allow them to go and be able to log in to their class and start their work and assignments.”
The pandemic has shed light on the already existing problem of limited internet access in many areas of the state. Through funding from the CARES Act, the South Carolina Department of Education is now providing hotspots to school districts across the state.
At last check, we’re told the Orangeburg County School District has received about 3,200 hotspots. District officials say the first round of nearly 750 hotspots were distributed to families, last week. They say they will continue accepting surveys from families in need of internet access, and that for now, the state will continue to provide districts with hotspots through the end of the year.
Manigo says she’s hoping to be approved for a hotspot soon, saying “It’ll be a big help. That’ll take a lot of the stress off of me.”
She also said the hotspot is very essential to have, “and as soon as possible, because the more time you go without having it, that’s the more time that they’re falling behind in work. I did contact the schools. So far, they will not count this against them, but I’m still concerned as a parent because I don’t want too much time to pass without them being able to catch up or at least do a lot of their work that is required.”
For now, the district intends to stick with online classes until mid-September and will then transition to a hybrid model if COVID-19 numbers have improved.