Alabama K-12 students await free internet vouchers

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Since talks of the state’s school plan began, a revolving point has been internet access for students.

During a Facebook live interview with Alabama Representative Terri Sewell, Eric Mackey said unfortunately for some school systems its a two part issue.

“We actually have 141,000 devices on backorder in Alabama because all of a sudden, its not just Alabama, but Alabama, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho. We are all ordering iPads and laptops, and theres just a big demand for them so we have some places where we still have a shortage,” he explained.

But on July 31, Governor Kay Ivey offered a temporary solution for part of the problem.

She designated $100 million to provide students who qualify for free or reduced lunch in schools, free internet service through the rest of the calendar year.

The governor also mentioned the letters would be sent out by August, however not every family has received one yet.

“We expect all of the vouchers will have been mailed by the end of this week,” said Maureen Neighbors with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. “All of the students in the state will have received their vouchers by sometime next week.”

ADECA said they’ve staggered the mailings to avoid overwhelming both the U.S. Postal Service and the internet service providers who have to redeem the vouchers.

But some students have not had to bear the burden of waiting for the mailman.

Since the day Madison County Schools announced it planned to go virtual for the first nine weeks, administrators planned to provide students with devices through money from a separate CARES Act designation.

A representative with the Madison County school system says currently, 33% of students in the district qualify for the Alabama Broadband Connectivity for students program.

MCS has already distributed nearly 2,300 personal internet devices, but it’s still unclear to school officials exactly how many in the county still do not have have internet access.

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