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Support local internet efforts

Perhaps state plans to extend internet access in West Virginia will do some good — eventually. But, as was the case earlier this year, it appears local initiatives will have to take the lead in serving children who are supposed to be learning from home, but without any way to get online there.

Last month, state officials revealed a plan to set up 1,000 wireless internet hotspots throughout West Virginia. The idea was to ensure children could get online to do school work this fall, if for one reason or another they are unable to be in the classroom.

State school Superintendent Clayton Burch reported a few days ago that the work was progressing well. But its benefits have limits, even if the 1,000 hotspots are installed. They will be located in public buildings such as schools, libraries and state parks — and that means that to get online, many students will have to ask their parents to drive them to wi-fi hotspot parking lots.

Just last week, Gov. Jim Justice and a bipartisan group of legislators revealed plans to tap into as much as $760 million in federal funds to extend internet access throughout the Mountain State. That will take years.

Meanwhile, some of the students expected to begin fall semester work this week from home will not have convenient internet access.

In local counties, school officials have stepped up in the hopes of solving that issue. In Hancock County, for example, WiFi hubs have been established at all of the county’s schools to provide students with an opportunity to obtain their classwork during their remote learning days.

Last spring, Ohio County set up mobile hotspots, installing WiFi equipment on school buses and other vehicles which were then sent out into the county.

In terms of meeting homebound students’ internet needs, local school officials are serving as first responders. In that role, they should receive top priority in accessing state resources ranging from expertise to funding.

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