High speed internet coming to Kansas schools

The project is expected to be complete by summer 2018.
The project is expected to be complete by summer 2018.

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — Kansas is partnering with a California-based nonprofit to provide high speed internet for 10 to 20 percent of the state’s school districts.

For the Garden City school district, access to high speed internet is a must. The district confirms it has one of the lowest bandwidth speeds of the area.

“Our relative investment for what the speed we’re getting is pretty good for what we’re investing for that internet speed,” said Roy Cessna, the district’s spokesperson.

While Kansas may contribute up to $10 million towards the project from the Universal Service Fund, most of the funding would likely come from the federal government as well as EducationSuperHighway’s donors.

With little cost to the school district, the idea is appealing.

“We’re hoping that would be a possibility,” said Cessna. “We’d have to look at how that would fit into our long range technology plan for the district.”

The state’s education commissioner hopes access to high-speed internet could help relieve the teacher shortage that plagues the state, particularly in rural areas.

“If they really get into a bind of a situation and they simply cannot get anyone to deliver that content, having this connectivity may be a resource that they could leverage,” said Denise Kahler, the commissioner’s spokesperson.

“Our school district’s been using technology for years on different types of things like that,” said Cessna. “We’re using technology on various areas where we can’t get specialists.”

Specialists like speech pathologists, who are able to work virtually with students in rural communities like Garden City.

The commissioner’s office dismissed concerns that this could lead to an intentional reduction of the number of teachers in favor of large-scale video sessions with a handful of instructors.

“I think everyone would agree that would not be an ideal situation,” said Kahler. “I would consider it a short term solution until a solution could be found.”

No districts have been specifically singled out for upgrades yet, but the project is expected to be complete by the summer of 2018.

We reached out to the Kansas National Education Association. Nobody from the organization was available to comment.