JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio announces a new Verizon initiative to bring internet-equipped tablets to district middle schoolers. | Photo by Olivia Krauth

Verizon is helping combat internet insecurity for Jefferson County Public Schools through a multimillion-dollar new initiative, the district formally announced Tuesday.

Every student and teacher at five JCPS middle schools — Newburg, Academy @ Shawnee, W.E.B. DuBois Academy, Olmsted Academy North and Lassiter — will receive an internet-equipped iPad through the program. Fully funded by Verizon, the program will distribute more than 3,400 free tablets and internet access.

For some students, the iPad will provide a guaranteed way to access the internet that they didn’t have before. Newburg Middle School Principal Nicole Adell called the program a “game-changer,” allowing the school to better serve underserved students.

Digital inclusion is a matter of equity and opportunity, Mayor Greg Fischer said in a news conference at Newburg Middle School Tuesday.

“Imagine if you’re a student … You want to do your research, you want to do your homework and you can’t do it,” Fischer said. That’s not right.”

Around 82,000 Louisville families don’t have computers in the home, Fischer said Tuesday.

Roughly 8 percent of JCPS parents across grade levels reported not having internet access at home, according to district data. Around 5 percent of middle school students said the same.

A lack of internet at home can be a “hurdle” for implementing district initiatives, like the digital Backpack of Success Skills, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said. Access to technology is an equity issue, he said.

Students can use their iPad for classwork or take it home to do homework or submit “artifacts” to their digital backpack.

Students will keep the tablet throughout the academic year, turning it in before summer break, a JCPS spokeswoman said. The initiative will run through the 2019-20 school year. 

“The work at school and the work at home work together simultaneously,” Pollio said.

Tuesday morning, parents and students dropped by Newburg Middle to pick up their tablet. Parents completed a mandatory digital citizenship class before grabbing the iPad, setting it up and learning about different apps and services.

Newburg’s STEM students demonstrated robotics projects fueled by iPads. A student, Makhtar Ndiaye, said they now have an app to help them program their robots.

Olivia Krauth

Olivia Krauth

Krauth reports on education in Louisville, including JCPS, the University of Louisville and state policy.Before joining Insider Louisville, she covered technology and business as a reporter at TechRepublic. She also spent time on the data team at the Austin American-Statesman in Texas as a Dow Jones intern.Krauth graduated from UofL, where she was an award-winning editor of The Louisville Cardinal and obtained a degree in investigative journalism with a minor in Russian studies.Email Olivia at [email protected]