Cell tower outage causes virtual learning headaches

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 6:34 PM EDT
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As many schools in Michiana are incorporating virtual learning to the start of the school year, technology is playing an important role in educating our kids.

What about those students that live in rural areas who have limited or no internet access?

“I was pretty upset. I wasn’t sure what to do, you know, I started making phone calls, I told my husband. I was just thinking to myself how long is this going to be? I was just hoping it was going to be a day or two,” Kelly Donndelinger says.

A cell tower in rural St. Joseph County has been down for two weeks. That’s according to Kelly Donndelinger. Her kids start school at St. Jude Catholic School in South Bend on Monday. She has another child in high school who also takes college courses.

“There’s no way to access any internet. We have to drive three or four miles to the edge of town to be able to pick up a signal on our phone, because all of our internet comes through our phone, through a hotspot,” Donndelinger says.

The tower is located on Madison Road and Mullberry Road in South Bend. A sign posted at the tower says it all; expressing frustration with Sprint and T-Mobile.

“If you’re having the same problem, we share your frustration because now is the worst possible time to lose internet. I mean, it’s one thing to sit at home and say I can’t watch Netflix or Hulu or something like that, but this is critical. It’s critical for my job, it’s critical for my kids learning,” Donndelinger says.

School districts are working to help out students in similar situations. Much like a number of schools in Michiana, Concord schools have made their buildings accessible to students without internet at home. Concord was recently approved for money from the GEERS Gund, which is the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. They’ll get 200 mobile hotspot devices for students in need.

Goshen Schools have been working with families without internet to receive low-cost internet or provide them with a mobile hotspot.

Schools are trying to stay on top of tech issues as the pandemic and virtual learning rolls on.

“I just hope this problem gets fixed soon, because this is just really hard to work around, you really can’t work around it. You have to have internet and if you don’t you can’t get anything done,” Donndelinger says.

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