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Fifty new Chromebook laptops have been purchased by the Klamath Falls City Schools and soon will be available for short- or long-term check-out from Klamath Union High School’s media center. Funds for the laptops were provided by Ballot Measure 98 and the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Each Chromebook has built-in internet connection through Verizon’s LTE (long term evolution) data plan. This means each will provide high-speed data access — without router or Wi-Fi connection — anywhere in Verizon’s coverage area. In compliance with the federal Children’s Internet Protection Act, their access is highly controlled, restricted mostly to educational sites and disconnected between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The laptops will be available to all students who need them, with priority given to juniors and seniors if demand is high. KU’s media center also loans Chromebooks without internet connectivity.

“With this purchase, Klamath’s city schools have helped level the playing field for student success by narrowing the digital divide,” said the district’s superintendent Paul Hillyer, referring to the gulf between those with and without access to computers and the internet.

According to Pew Research Center data, 35% of lower-income households with school-age children do not have a broadband internet connection at home. One quarter of teens whose family income is less than $30,000 a year do not have access to a home computer.

The gap between school-age children who have access to high-speed internet at home and those who don’t has been called the “homework gap.” Of teens in lower-income families, 24% say that lack of a dependable computer or internet connection often or sometimes prohibits them from finishing their homework.

In addition to creating a “homework gap,” online access has been connected to a “graduation gap” among students. Pew researchers Monica Anderson and Andrew Perrin write, “There is some evidence that teens who have access to a home computer are more likely to graduate from high school when compared with those who don’t.”

“If we are serious about our goal of 100% graduation,” said Hillyer, “then we must give all students equal opportunity to conduct research, access educational resources and complete assignments, both at school and at home. These laptops provide such opportunity.”