Palisades High technology director Jeff Roepel approached the Palisades Rotary Club with an unusual request: $3,600 for internet hotspots.
Once the request was explained, the Rotary Foundation Board voted unanimously to grant the money.
Incoming President Trish Bowe presented a check to Roepel in front of the closed high school on April 15. She said that Pacific Palisades Rotary had pledged to help the community during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Our first outreach was to the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness, to which Rotary donated money to purchase cell phones for the homeless so they could communicate with the task force by phone,” Bowe said. Next, since the Rotarians routinely provide scholarships to PaliHi students, the club reached out to the high school and asked, “What do students need during this crisis?”
PaliHi, like most schools, has gone to online learning during the coronavirus shutdown. Students are required to check in for attendance with each teacher for each class. The school’s block system means a student generally checks in with three teachers a day.
If a student fails to check in, the attendance office follows up with the student.
In some cases, the office has discovered that a student does not have access to distance learning (lacking the internet, Wi-Fi or computer). Roepel also told Circling the News on April 15 that some students have been trying to work off a cell phone – and many only have a limited plan.
“Access to the internet would allow these students to catch up and continue their education with their peers,” Roepel said. He explained that a hotspot is defined as a physical location where people may obtain internet access, typically using Wi-Fi technology, via a wireless local-area network. For example, many businesses use a hotspot to allow customers in hotels or coffee shops to access the internet.
Roepel said that he had met with multiple providers and learned that Sprint charges $30/month with a 1-year contract for unlimited data; Verizon requires device purchase and is $25/month for unlimited; Kajeet requires device purchase and the plans are metered, requiring additional expense for overages which would be expected under Pali’s remote learning model; and T-Mobile is $20/month with a 1-year contract and unlimited data.
Each hotspot is leased with service for $20/month or $240 for a 1-year contact. All providers’ data plans are offered at a substantial discount in comparison to commercial plans.
Roepel said that the intent is to provide hotspots to students and teachers who don’t have internet access at home.
“All technology devices sent home with students require a parent/guardian contract be signed, accepting financial responsibility for any damages incurred to a borrowed device,” he said. “Under normal circumstances, devices would be collected during the last three days of school. Should school still be physically closed, the school will need to devise an alternative method for collection of books, materials and devices.”
Roepel noted that initially PaliHi had a projected re-open date in May, with the school year ending June 4. In an email to the Rotary board, he said: “It is fair to assume that we will not be physically returning to campus. The State Superintendent recently announced that he expects California schools to continue with distance learning only through the remainder of the 19-20 school year.
“Should the pandemic continue beyond the projected timeframe, Pali will need to transition our summer school and credit recovery program to a distance learning platform, where available devices would be reused to assist participating students in need,” he said.
Helping Roepel in the technology department are Domonick Thomas, Manny Waters and Cody Wilcox. Roepel said if anyone knows a PaliHi student who needs tech help, that student should contact him.
“That’s what we’re here for,” he said. (visit:firstname.lastname@example.org)