It hardly seems possible that the youngest members of our co-op communities will soon head back to school. That return is rooted in such routines as choosing classes or planning for extracurricular activities. While this school year won't feel entirely the same as in many years past, there will at least be less uncertainty after the unexpected challenges of the past 18 months.
Like so many other organizations, Tipmont fundamentally changed the way we did business last year to ensure we continued to meet our communities' needs. But our efforts paled in comparison to what our schools endured.
I marvel at the ingenuity with which our educators reinvented delivery models when schools closed, as well as their adaptability amid schedule interruptions throughout the year. I also applaud the students, for whom online learning became a new normal. That shift was challenging enough for students with adequate internet access. Those without it faced both learning and social isolation.
Tippecanoe School Corporation Superintendent Scott Hanback shared this quote with us: "Digital learning is an important part of the educational program at the TSC. Equal access to high-speed internet is critical, in that it allows our students to access educational materials and communicate with their teachers outside of school hours."
We learned of teachers putting a few thousand miles on their cars to deliver flash drives to rural students' homes so they could access their assignments. Or students forced to live with a relative who had adequate internet access.
As we continued our mission to bring better in-home internet to underserved communities, we provided additional assistance. In March 2020, we launched our first free public WiFi hotspot, located at North Montgomery High School. Using these hotspots, teachers with inadequate internet access at home could more easily grade students' online homework.
More than a year later, we're up to 12 — with three more coming in August thanks to a joint effort by the Tippecanoe County Commissioners, TSC, and Wintek powered by Tipmont.
These new hotspots will be located at:
TSC identified these locations as areas where students had difficulty accessing high-speed internet. Hotspot funding came through a grant that county commissioners received from Indiana's Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA).
I thank the commissioners, TSC and OCRA for their ongoing effort to support broadband in underserved areas. Partnerships like these make me so proud of Tipmont and our communities — displaying resiliency and resourcefulness that will help resume the school year with confidence.