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State Library and NC DIT Receive Grant to Address K-12 Homework Gap Through Broadband Adoption

Raleigh, N.C.

Some North Carolina K-12 students without home internet access to complete assigned homework will soon receive assistance through a $250,000, two-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The grant was recently awarded to the State Library of North Carolina and the Broadband Infrastructure Office of the North Carolina Department of Information Technology (DIT).

Students who are assigned homework requiring access to the internet, but who do not have home internet access, fall into what is called the “homework gap,” which can limit students’ educational opportunities outside the classroom.

The grant will fund a project to address the homework gap by equipping up to four local North Carolina library systems with WIFI hotspots that can be loaned to students to provide the at-home internet access they need to complete homework assignments.

The two-year project, which begins in July, will include hiring a Digital Inclusion Librarian to work at the State Library to lead the project, partner with library systems to provide the hotspots, work with local families, and provide digital literacy training. 

“We learned from a recent NC DIT study that around ten percent of North Carolina households with school-age children don’t have home internet access,” said State Librarian Cal Shepard. “But most teachers assign homework that requires internet access, and many textbooks in North Carolina public schools are now digital. That puts those students without home internet access at a huge disadvantage. This project uses the great resources we already have in local libraries and public schools to begin to break down those barriers and close the gap for these students.”

The project will work with a library system in one Tier I county during the first year and will expand to include up to three more library systems in year two. The first county has not yet been identified.

“DIT is excited to use the research our BIO team has conducted on the homework gap for the past few years to inform this pilot with our partners at the State Librarian’s Office,” said DIT Secretary Eric Boyette. “Local libraries have long played a critical role in bridging the informational divide in our society, and we’re excited to be partnering with them on this important project.”

In each partner community, the project partners will work with local schools to identify up to 30 families without internet service each school semester to participate in the program. Up to 300 families will participate in the two-year project. Participants will be able to check out WIFI hotspots for an entire school semester and must attend digital literacy training sessions.

Additional partners include the Friday Institute Research and Evaluation Team, who will conduct the project evaluation and provide research assistance; the NC Department of Public Instruction; and Kramden Institute, a non-profit computer refurbisher. 

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