Oxford School District makes emergency purchase of C-Spire “MiFi” hot spots for students

Published 1:04 pm Friday, April 17, 2020

In an effort to make sure every student is able to complete distance learning, the Oxford School District approved an emergency purchase on Thursday.

During a special meeting, the Oxford School Board of Trustees approved the purchase of around 50 C-Spire “MiFi” hot spot devices to help students who did not have a reliable internet connection complete their distance learning assignments.

Last week, Governor Tate Reeves announced all Mississippi public school campuses would remain closed for the rest of the current school year. The decision left teachers and students with a little over a month more of distance learning before the summer break.

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Upon hearing the news, Oxford school superintendent Brian Harvey began looking into how the school district could provide internet access to individuals who did not have access. Principals spoke with teachers to find out which students are not participating in their distance learning assignments because of it.

“They’ve all submitted a list, and I’ve asked the principals to focus on those individuals who have responded to our attempts to communicate with ‘We’re not participating because we do not have access.'” Harvey said during the meeting. “We’re still trying to make connections with those individuals that have chosen to not communicate back with us or we don’t have a number. We’re still reaching out to them.”

Harvey said there is roughly “less than five percent” of OSD students who are currently without some form of internet access.

The school district has also secured seven WiFi hot spots to put on school buses, which should be rolled out in the next couple of weeks.

A second step in this process was to look into providing “MiFis” to individuals, or group of individuals. Handing out those devices will be based on different solutions.

“It would be a better option to provide a bus with WiFi, but where you have individuals in remote, isolated places, as long as there is cell-phone coverage there, they would need an individual ‘MiFi,'” Harvey said.

The “MiFis” will be paired with the WiFi buses to help provide as much internet access to students as possible. Harvey said OSD has begun early discussions with MaxxSouth to potentially provide internet access to students via cable.

“We basically create an umbrella of coverage of some type of solution,” Harvey said. “Because, this is truly one area where one size doesn’t fit all. … We’re looking at it as a long-term situation. Not only for if this situation were to happen again in the fall, but this is something that we’ve been struggling with, and now we have an opportunity to fix it.”

The devices will cost $120 per device and, because it was an emergency purchase during a declared state of emergency, OSD will be reimbursed for roughly 75 to 90 percent of the funding, according to Harvey.