Thanks to EcoVision, Inc., the authorized U.S. Cellular dealer in Vinton, and the Vinton Shellsburg School District, 40 Vinton-Shellsburg families who didn’t have internet access from home will soon have service. Kelley Lokenvitz, the business development manager for EcoVision’s four Iowa locations, facilitated the assistance for VSCSD students.
“We know many families don’t have internet service for their students, and we wanted to help,” said Kelley. “Most people think of us as a cell phone company, but US Cellular also offers high-speed cellular hot spots, which is the equipment needed for high-speed access to the internet through cellular service, rather than through telephone or cable services. We’re appreciative of the support we get from U.S. Cellular, and EcoVision, Inc. is excited to do our part providing the equipment for students to remain connected to their teachers and learning opportunities.”
Brandon Farmer, the district’s IT director, said the district couldn’t buy the equipment because it was on backorder everywhere he looked. “Without the help of EcoVision and U.S. Cellular, it would have been very expensive for us to provide internet access, even if we could have located the equipment. Kelley and EcoVision really stepped-up to help, and on behalf of our students and their families, we want to give Kelley, EchoVision and U.S. Cellular a big thank-you.”
The school district has taken several steps to determine the level of internet connectivity for families. A survey was sent to all student families soon after schools were ordered closed and teachers have been calling those families that didn’t respond. Parents are encouraged to call the office of their student’s building, to contact their principal, or to be in contact with the district’s IT director, Brandon Farmer by phone at 319-436-4728, ext. 5636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Priority for receiving the special assistance provided by EcoVision, Inc. and U.S. Cellular is being given to seniors working to complete their education, high school students in general, and other students as long as equipment is available. All high school students have a laptop provided by the district and can use it for access to resources and instruction.
“We know parents are dealing with many concerns and that student learning may not be their most challenging one,” explains Vinton-Shellsburg school superintendent Mary Jo Hainstock, “but as educators, our job is to do all we can to continue providing learning opportunities, so students are well-prepared for the years to come, whether that is another year in the V-S school district, or moving on to a career or post-secondary education. We want every student to have equal access to education, and though the buildings are closed, we are committed to keeping the school open to the best of our ability.”
Educators are concerned that interrupted learning will result in students falling behind in their educational development. Some research suggests that summer recess can result in significant reductions in annual reading development, and even more for learning math. Concerns are mounting that the additional stresses on students and families caused by the COVID-19 pandemic might result in even more significant developmental losses.