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Columbus And Franklin County Launch Partnership To Get Students Online

Student working on a laptop
Polina Zimmerman

Franklin County and Columbus leaders are pitching in to help students outside the city school district get connected for remote fall classes.

The public-private partnership, facilitated by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, aims to get computers and hot spots in the hands of students who wouldn’t otherwise have internet access.

The move comes as nearly all districts in Franklin County prepare for a virtual return to class later this month.

“This has become a critical issue during this pandemic. Data shows that as many as one in four students do not have the Internet in the home, and even more don’t have a computer. This means far too many students will fall behind,” John O’Grady, president of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement. “Having Internet and a computer has quickly become a basic necessity in education – particularly when we have to maintain social distance.”

Franklin County is putting forward $500,000 and the city of Columbus is contributing $1.5 million. In addition to the public funding, J.P. Morgan Chase committed $50,000, and MORPC says it's looking for more backers.

Columbus leaders previously earmarked $7 million in federal funds to purchase laptops for students within Columbus City Schools. Organizers with MORPC note they are still figuring out which schools and kids will be at the front of the line.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.