CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia faces enormous challenges in providing efficient and high-quality education across a rural landscape. As the world becomes more complex, so does the need to provide access to the most current and relevant classes, whether those students live in Weirton or Welch, Martinsburg or Matewan. The key to making this happen is technology.
We MUST extend computer access to every corner of our state to provide fair and equitable education to ALL of West Virginia's children.
Before The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, this was a pipe dream. Extending the fiber optic cables and equipment to much of our state is not commercially feasible, and state funding is not available. The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program opened the door to modern high-speed Internet in every school in the state, paid for by federal dollars. West Virginia won one of the most comprehensive grants from the National Telecommunications & Information Administration.
Was every detail of this proposal perfect? Probably not, especially with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight. But it must have been pretty good, or the National Telecommunications & Information Administration wouldn't have funded it.
Let's take a look at what is being accomplished:
There are 745 public schools in West Virginia serving 280,000 students. Before this program, hundreds of those schools had little or no Internet connectivity. Now all schools will have it, including the 471 schools receiving upgrades and/or being connected for the very first time. And that's a game-changer for West Virginia, plain and simple.
All public school students are now merely months away from having access to the best of the best classes through the West Virginia Virtual Schools Program. West Virginia students, like their peers nationally, are currently taking courses online that are not offered in their local schools. Some students schedule courses that they are unable to enroll in locally due to scheduling conflicts. Many schools use West Virginia Virtual Schools Program courses when it is impossible to find highly qualified teachers to teach the courses in the local school. More than 250 core and elective courses are available, including many different Advanced Placement courses. The technology is already in place in all but 43 schools, and these schools will be online by March.
Much has been written about the size of the routers included in the planning of this massive expansion of Internet connectivity across the state under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. This is quite simply Monday morning quarterbacking.