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Arizona education department funds project bringing internet to rural areas

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — A project working to bring reliable internet to students and families in rural areas has received $1.5 million in federal funds from the Arizona Department of Education.

The Final Mile Project will use the funding to take existing broadband capacities provided to schools and extend it to rural Arizona homes with no internet, slow internet speeds or unaffordable internet, the department said.

“The past year has exposed many long-standing inequities impacting Arizona students and families, notably access to at-home technology and internet service,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said in a press release.

Final Mile is a collaboration between the Arizona Rural Schools Association, the Arizona Business and Education Coalition and the Arizona Association of County School Superintendents.

The effort’s goal is to allow every K-12 student in Arizona the chance to participate in virtual learning from anywhere in the state.

According to its website, the project is currently working to bridge the digital divide in seven rural school districts:

  • Holbrook Unified School District
  • Beaver Creek Elementary School District
  • Hackberry Elementary School District
  • Paloma Elementary School District
  • Pomerene Elementary School District
  • Chevelon Butte Elementary School District
  • Pima Unified School District

“Of all the chronic inequities impacting our rural students’ ability to recover from COVID-19 related learning loss, the lack of quality internet access will be the most enduring unless we act to close that last mile connection from our schools and libraries to the homes of our students,” Wes Brownfield, executive director of the Arizona Rural Schools Association, said in the release.

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