Loudoun Co. school internet cafes largely unused, remain as backups

There’s not a lot of broadband service in the western part of Loudoun County, Virginia, so four schools host internet cafes as safe locations for students to get internet access for distance learning. They sit largely empty, and the school system said that’s a good thing.

When the school year started, Loudoun County Public Schools chose four schools — Kenneth W. Culbert Elementary, in Hamilton; Woodgrove High School and Blue Ridge Middle Schools, in Purcellville; and Round Hill Elementary School, in Round Hill — to provide hot spots to students with sketchy internet or no internet at home.

Today, few — if any students — use them.

“Use of the internet cafes has been limited since the program started in September,” schools spokesman Wayde Byard told WTOP. “We believe this is due in part of the success of the LCPS hot spot distribution program to students who might not otherwise have had internet access at home.”

The school system has distributed 2,118 hotspots, according to Byard.

Though some might question the need to keep the internet cafes operational if they’re not being used, Byard said all of the schools hosting them are open to staff on a daily basis, with administrative, teacher and meal preparation services.

Byard said the internet access is typically available in a large room — such as a cafeteria — which puts no additional financial strain on the school system.

The internet cafes are expected to remain open as backups, Byard added.

To use the cafes, parents must contact their child’s school administrators to verify eligibility.

Parent or guardian supervision is required for students in grades K-6, while older students in grades 7-12 are eligible to use the internet cafes independently.

Students are expected to bring their own LCPS Chromebook, headphones and any additional school supplies for learning while in the cafes.

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