At the start of the pandemic, when schooling largely shifted online, the City of South Bend, Indiana sought out a solution for students experiencing connectivity challenges. The result was a collaborative partnership called Citywide Classroom.
Made possible through a partnership among the South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC), School City of Mishawaka, City of South Bend, and enFocus, Citywide Classroom was launched in October of 2020 to provide options for no-cost at-home internet using mobile data hotspots and mobile routers, which are connected through a private LTE network that is built in select areas of South Bend. The partnership also acts as a resource by connecting families with the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal program that can subsidize broadband internet costs.
Citywide Classroom serves K-12 students enrolled in the National School Lunch Program, which is nearly 70% of SBCSC (10,500 students) and 56% of the School City of Mishawaka (3,000 students). While some of these families already had an internet connection at home, it was often through their mobile phone data plan, which provides insufficient bandwidth for the needs of e-learning. For many families, the cost of internet connection is often too expensive relative to other pressing needs.
To date, Citywide Classroom has delivered over 3,800 at-home internet connections to serve 4,800 South Bend students and 530 Mishawaka students, as well as 500 teachers and administrators in need of internet in their homes.
Citywide Classroom wouldn’t be possible without the partnerships at each school, where teachers, social workers, principals, and other administrative employees communicate directly with families to connect them to these vital resources.
“I love it, the kids love it,” said Aleasha, a parent of an Adams High School student. “They could take the hotspot to other houses so they could do schoolwork from there, so that was great.”
“Even after the time of e-learning, at-home internet is essential to connecting students to the online world,” says Chief Innovation Officer for the City of South Bend, Denise Linn Riedl. “With over 3,600 devices connecting 4,800 students, Citywide Classroom has had such a large impact on South Bend families to ensure they are connected to resources.”