Jillian Hellenbrand, 11, and her brother Louis, 5, climb an apple tree on the family's small farm near Dane, Wis., on Aug. 22, 2020. The Lodi School District where the Hellenbrand children attend plans to hold classes online as the academic year begins. Their mother, Amy Jo Hellenbrand, would prefer in-person schooling. Like many rural families in Wisconsin, the Hellenbrands have slow internet service at their home. Credit: Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch
Credit: Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

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Today we highlight our examination of efforts in Wisconsin’s rural school districts to bridge the digital divide as some prepare for online-only learning during the pandemic. 

The story by reporter Peter Cameron of The Badger Project, writing for Wisconsin Watch, highlights two rural families with different views on the safety of in-person instruction as many Wisconsin schools reopen on Sept. 1. Cameron details how school districts are compensating for poor internet and cellphone service in rural areas of Wisconsin. 

Districts have used federal pandemic relief funds to buy hotspots for students’ homes and to subsidize the cost of internet subscriptions, Cameron reports. Some of these rural areas also have created hotspots in school and library parking lots.

This piece is part of a national collaborative reporting project called Lesson Plans: Rural schools grapple with COVID.

Top Stories

Jillian Hellenbrand, 11, and her brother Louis, 5, climb an apple tree on the family’s small farm near Dane, Wis., on Aug. 22, 2020. The Lodi School District where the Hellenbrand children attend plans to hold classes online as the academic year begins. Their mother, Amy Jo Hellenbrand, would prefer in-person schooling. Like many rural families in Wisconsin, the Hellenbrands have slow internet service at their home. Credit: Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin’s rural students face a digital divide as some return to screens instead of schoolWisconsin Watch

Conservatives sue to knock down Tony Evers’ health emergency, mask mandateMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Private schools push back against Dane County schools order; legal challenges expectedWisconsin State Journal 

258 inmates, 20 employees test positive for COVID-19 at Green Bay Correctional InstitutionGreen Bay Press Gazette 

Madison elected officials ask: Why bring UW-Madison students back when outbreak is inevitable?Wisconsin State Journal 

Unemployed workers struggling to cover basic expenses as week 5 without $600 federal supplement beginsWPR

Sawyer County sees more COVID-19 cases in August than all prior months since the pandemic beganWPR 

What are we missing? And how are you coping? Help us provide critical information and accountability by filling out this form or emailing us at tips@wisconsinwatch.org.

Quotable

“I can’t thank all of our families enough for their continued support, patience, and flexibility … We know they have carried some additional burdens and challenges over the past several months. As we start the school year, we now need parents to help promote healthy practices, commit to daily wellness checks, and talk with your child each about how they are doing.”

Beaver Dam Unified School District Superintendent Mark DiStefano, as quoted by the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen

Data to note

Here are the latest visualizations of COVID-19 cases and deaths from our partners at WisContext.

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Resilient Wisconsin

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A special delivery – getting food to families in need during COVID-19WMTV

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