When Kristopher Hupp started teaching high school social studies in the Cornell School District in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, his classroom had a chalkboard and a PC with a floppy disc drive.
Twenty years later, he’s the district’s director of technology and instructional innovation, responsible for leading the transition to remote learning in response to the spread of COVID-19. While all of Cornell’s classrooms have fast and reliable internet, not every student has a device like a Chromebook, and many lack reliable internet access at home.
“My stress level was through the roof,” Hupp said. “Lots of waking up in the middle of the night, trying to stay on top of all of the email and phone communication with families and trying to find devices, and making sure they got wirelessly connected.”
And the Cornell School District isn’t alone. According to Pittsburgh Public Schools, 46% of homes in its district don’t have access to reliable Wi-Fi. A 2018 survey found that as many as 60% of some Pittsburgh neighborhoods have no internet access, and many other urban, suburban and rural homes lack connectivity.
“Many of the most underresourced learners can’t get online,” said Ashley Williams Patton, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Science Pathways program.
To support the transition to remote learning, CMU CS Pathways is partnering with Pittsburgh-based nonprofit Meta Mesh Wireless Communities to provide free access to Wi-Fi in high-need communities across the Greater Pittsburgh Area, starting with a pilot program in Coraopolis.