Connecting Vermont students stuck at home to their schoolwork

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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont kids are finishing the school year at home. But what about those kids with no computers or no internet? Our Olivia Lyons shows you how schools in Rutland are solving the problem.

Rutland City public schools have had a relationship with the Vermont Telephone Company for years. Now, the two have teamed up, to deliver free wireless internet to about 100 families in the area.

"We're able to provide Chromebooks for kindergarten through grade 12. The real question is how will they connect to the internet? So, through this partnership, our students will be able to connect to the internet and through that, their teachers," said Patricia Aigner, the director of technology for Rutland schools.

VTel has donated 100 wireless routers and Ericsson has increased and improved the bandwidth.

"We love it, that's what we do, it was a wonderful project," said Michel Guite, the president of VTel. "The wireless internet, we're doing that for free for as long as this crisis goes on."

Guite says the difficult part will be explaining how the routers work and the computers connect. Staffers and teachers have been working with families to explain.

"Rutland because it is a city was really well poised for this project. Equity of access becomes a greater issue in our rural areas and that's where we're struggling just as much as a state," Aigner said.

"We struggle once again with ensuring that every student in every corner of the state has access to those world-class kinds of opportunities and we should take that on as a challenge. And I think one of the positive outcomes of this crisis, I would say, is the focus on individual students, individual families. We can't have any individual student left behind, regardless of where they live," Vt. Education Secretary Dan French said.

For Rutland, this isn't just a way to connect students to their teachers but for the school to check on the students' well-being.

"For us, it meant we can take care of our kids not only by feeding them or delivering lunches as you know but also delivering internet," Aigner said.

Wednesday was the first day of delivery for the Chromebooks. Aigner says it will be an ongoing rollout and families are still encouraged to connect with their students' school if they are in need.