BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Dozens of families in the Glades are signing onto much faster and more efficient internet thanks to a partnership between the School District of Palm Beach County and several other organizations.
The WiFi Mesh Network has been in the works since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 and exposed the digital divide in our community.
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About 100 Glade View Elementary School families were part of history on Thursday.
"It's gonna help me learn and help me with my grades," said fifth grade student Malaysia Cameron.
"It's very needed, so it’s great. It’s great," said Henrietta Cameron, Malaysia's grandmother.
Belle Glade is the first area in Palm Beach County to go live on the long-anticipated WiFi Mesh Network.
"This is a huge milestone, so it feels great," said Superintendent Mike Burke.
The School District of Palm Beach County, Education Foundation of Palm Beach County, and other organizations began working on the project in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that thousands of families did not have reliable internet access at home.
So the team went to work, installing poles and radios and creating a network in the areas that needed more reliable internet access the most.
"If someone in the family needs to apply for a job or get access to different services or do research, it’s there," Burke said. "A lot of benefits are going to come from this."
Glade View Elementary School gave out almost 100 free WiFi extenders on Thursday. Families just plug them into the wall at their home, and instantly, their internet access is faster.
There are around 6,500 WiFi extenders configured and ready to go out to homes, the school district said.
Players from the Miami Dolphins lent a hand and also their time to actually configure the devices.
"I feel like this will help me with my education," said fourth grade student Keith Grant.
It's one positive step forward from the pandemic as the school district works to level the playing field for all students.
"Celebrating that there is never going to be a divide because of your zip code," said School Board Member Marcia Andrews.
The first phase of the Municipal WiFi Project will serve about 25,000 students across Palm Beach County.
The network is still in progress in several other communities including Lake Worth Beach, Boynton Beach, Lantana, and more.
According to the School District of Palm Beach County, to qualify to receive one of the free WiFi extenders, a student must be enrolled in a Palm Beach County public or charter school, must live within a WiFi service area, and must qualify for the Free and Reduced Price Meal program.