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Lack of internet impacts rural students in virtual learning

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ATHENS, Wis. (WAOW) -- While virtual learning is a new normal for most people as the school year gets underway, its especially impacting families living in rural areas.

Parents like Kat Becker of Athens, say without access to strong internet access, it makes virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic nearly impossible.

"The cellular access is impossible in our house, I have to walk to the road for instance if I want to talk to you or upload things," Becker explained.

Becker is a mother of three and owns Cattail Organics Farm. Her kids are doing alternate learning for the start of the 2020 school year, which means some days they'll be in class and some at home, learning.

"For us, we're setting up to do the best we can like we did in the spring," Becker said. But, she's not expecting it to be easy. "I've kind of accepted that this year will be educationally terrible."

Eric Budleski, a father of two, said the pandemic has opened the door to having kids do school work but feels it's just not possible for everyone.

His kids are in the D.C. Everest School District and said while they appreciate the district providing students with iPads, you need internet for it to be beneficial.

Budleski and Becker are both part of the Marathon County Broadband Task Force. The two agree the school districts don't have the capability to bring broadband access to their rural communities which is why they hope to get state, county and local help.

Their ultimate hope for those in rural Wisconsin is broadband access expansion and they say until then, they'll do the best they can.

The next Marathon Co. Broadband Task Force meeting is Sept. 14 at 4 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.

Neena Pacholke

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