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Partnering with Local Government and Community Agencies with HCSEdConnect

When schools transitioned to emergency remote learning in 2020, the Chattanooga, TN community recognized many students lacked the home internet access necessary to participate. To address the challenge, Hamilton County Schools (HCS), Hamilton County, the City of Chattanooga, the Enterprises Center of Chattanooga, and various local funders partnered to provide free, reliable, high-speed internet access to qualifying Hamilton County families. They named the partnership HCS EdConnect. 

Identifying students and families who needed home internet access and encouraging them to participate in the program was the biggest challenge HCS faced. Initially, the school system reached out to students who qualified for Free and Reduced Price Meals. As of Spring 2023, over 16,000 students were connected to reliable high-speed internet at no charge, representing approximately one-third of the students in the district. The school system continues working to identify families that have not yet opted into this free service. 

Anecdotal information from teachers, students, and parents indicate reliable high-speed internet access at home has made a difference for program participants. Boston University is implementing a qualitative research study to study the program further. Preliminary research findings indicate nearly all the families participating in HCS EdConnect reported positive attitudes toward the use of technology in education.