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June 29, 2022

PVUSD receives $4.1M from feds for internet connectivity improvements

WATSONVILLE—Pajaro Valley Unified School District is set to receive roughly $4.1 million from the federal government to help its students connect to the internet.

The district is one of 18 institutions throughout the Central Coast that received a portion of the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund Program (ECF), which was created as part of the American Rescue Plan.

The ECF is a $7.17 billion program to help schools and libraries address connectivity issues that were heightened during distance learning as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The program will cover costs of laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use.

Congressman Jimmy Panetta, the representative for the 20th District, made the announcement on Monday morning.

“Although the pandemic highlighted the digital divide for many of our students locally, it allowed the federal government to step up and provide the funding necessary for kids to access the internet in many of our communities,” Panetta said in a press release. “This critical funding from the American Rescue Plan will help students on the Central Coast get and stay connected so they can get their work done.”

PVUSD received the largest share of the Central Coast’s $14.1 million piece of the funding. Salinas City Elementary School District received just over $3 million, and Alisal Union Elementary School District was granted just over $2 million.

Ceiba College Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Watsonville, received $64,620. The Santa Cruz County Office of Education ($302,767.85) and Santa Cruz City School District ($1.6M) also received funding.

Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools Faris Sabbah said that the pandemic underscored the impacts of the digital divide, or the idea that low-income families frequently have less access to the internet.

“This Connectivity will also offer families a fundamental lifeline to address the social determinants of health,” Sabbah said in a press release.

The federal funding is part of an overarching effort by government agencies and school districts to help communities access the internet and make distance learning easier.

In February, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors approved using a $500,000 grant to install small cellular antennas throughout the county to boost the signals for people living in the rural parts of the county.

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