By Josette Keelor
A new partnership between Shenandoah County Public Schools and Shentel Telecommunications will allow students in Shenandoah County easier access to Internet services.
The partnership, announced recently by the school system, will offer discounted DSL service to families of students who qualify for discounted or free school meals, said Edward McKay, vice president of wireline and engineering for Shentel.
"We have had a similar partnership with a school system in West Virginia," he said. "This will be [Shentel's] largest partnership with a school system to date."
Standard montly DSL service in Shenandoah County ranges from $24.95 to $59.95, he said, but the discounted service will be $14.95 to $39.95 depending on the plan families choose.
McKay said Shentel's service covers "the vast majority of Shenandoah County."
On the last day of the previous school year, 2,773 students were signed up for reduced price lunches, according to Cynthia Page, school director of finance. She said that indicates the number of students who could benefit from lowered rates on Internet service.
When a family qualifies for the reduced cost meal plan, their child will receive a letter the family can take to Shentel to show participation in the school program.
The need for Internet access to complete schoolwork will depend on grade level, Page said, but until now teachers in the county have made accommodations for students without Internet access at home, such as by sending DVDs home with students to watch instead of having to access materials online.
"We hope [the program] will begin in the fall," Page said. "I think it will be a beneficial partnership."
Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org