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Bayfield schools receive $328,000 to improve broadband access

Town, school partner on internet improvements
Bayfield High School teacher Brian McDonagh works with students during an introduction to STEM class. A $328,000 grant will help Bayfield schools improve broadband connectivity for students in multiple ways across the district.

The Bayfield School District will be able to improve student access to broadband with an award of $328,000 in state funding announced last week.

Broadband has become an even more vital utility during the coronavirus pandemic when so many students worked remotely during school closures. But in areas like Bayfield, some families have struggled with broadband access. The Connecting Colorado Students grant award, from the Colorado Department of Education, will help Bayfield support those students while improving its broadband infrastructure.

“It’s a great partnership with the town of Bayfield to be able to do this,” said Kevin Aten, Bayfield superintendent. “Anything we can do to provide better access for our students and our citizens just strengthens the town of Bayfield.”

The Connecting Colorado Students grant can be used to pay for a variety of tools and technologies, such as subscribing to broadband services, providing devices, purchasing data plans and increasing the availability of internet access using Wi-Fi, antennas or mobile hot spots.

The grant money will help the Bayfield School District increase the number of hot spots available to students and reimburse some of the district’s broadband-related expenses in its general fund. The town of Bayfield will add Wi-Fi towers to help improve broadband access, Aten said.

The district and town are still finalizing parts of the plan, said Katie Sickles, Bayfield town manager.

“We are very excited about the fact that the school district was awarded this grant,” she said. “That helps the town of Bayfield implement a broadband plan for the rest of the town.”

After the town completed a broadband study in March 2020, it entered into an agreement with Clearnetworx, an internet service provider based in Montrose, in December.

“It helps first of all because there’s energy behind getting this done,” Sickles said. “This is the perfect opportunity for two public bodies to work together on a project that benefits the whole community.”

smullane@durangoherald.com

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