Lawrence schools receive $520,000 T-Mobile grant for Wi-Fi devices


Lawrence Elementary School students now have the access to complete schoolwork outside of the classroom just with the touch of their fingertips thanks to a $520,000 grant from T-Mobile.

After obtaining the grant through T-Mobile’s EmpowerEd program, roughly 550 students in grades three to five lined up in the elementary school’s gymnasium on April 5 to receive their personal Wi-Fi Android devices from T-Mobile. Each device has its own built-in hotspot to allow the students to use it no matter the location. The students were also given a pair of headphones. The EmpowerEd program is T-Mobile’s efforts to narrow “America’s homework gap by providing off-campus devices and data plans to students,” according to a statement on the website.

Students have their own Google account will be able to do schoolwork on the devices through Google Classroom. Lawrence School District Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said, the assignments include the major subjects — reading, writing and math. Pedersen added that the district applied to receive the grant in the late-fall and the process came together quickly from there. “This is something that was important to me so we moved quickly as a district to make this come together,” she said.

David Bezzant, senior director of T-Mobile for Business explained in a statement why it’s important for the company to provide these devices. “T-Mobile is proud to support Lawrence School District by providing devices and connectivity for 2,600 students through the EmpowerED program — another step toward bridging the digital divide by giving students access to high-speed wireless connection at home,” he stated. “Every child deserves access to the tools they need to be successful in today’s fast paced world, and T-Mobile’s EmpowerED program is giving students the resources they need to make it possible.”

Rob Wiebke works as a technician for the district and helped developed the devices. “Each device has two gigabytes of data available per month which should I believe is more than enough,” Wiebke said. “The students are able to do their assignments and communicate with their teacher at any time with their devices.”

Wiebke noted that it has been a busy past couple of months for the school district in regards to upgrading their technology. “One month ago, we had our first meeting with T-Mobile regarding these devices and two months ago we launched an app and revamped our website,” he said. “We’ve put the pedal to the medal in the past couple of months.”

In the next few weeks, the district plans on distributing devices to students in grades six to 12. All devices must be returned before high school graduation. If the feedback is similar to how the third-, fourth- and five- graders reacted to the devices, than there will be some happy students.

“Even though we’ve just begun giving out these devices, I can already tell how excited our students are about this,” Pedersen said. “It’s so great that our school district was chosen to receive this grant.”