LINCOLN — Two Northeast Nebraska public libraries are among five that will participate in a year-long project designed to help rural students be on equal footing when it comes to internet access.

The libraries in Bancroft, Verdigre, Genoa, Imperial and Wymore have been selected to work together as partners to increase internet speeds at their facilities as part of a Nebraska Library Commission project that kicks off June 1.

The library commission recently was awarded a $25,000 National Leadership Sparks Grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Nebraska Office of the Chief Information Officer and the school districts located in the five communities also are participating in the project.

“As Nebraska students and teachers embrace digital learning, Nebraska public libraries look for new partnership models with schools to ensure equal access to digital learning resources for all students,” said Rod Wagner, the director of the state library commission.

There’s no question, he said, that high-speed internet access is essential to school children and a partnership between schools and libraries in the five communities will demonstrate an innovative way to ensure that children can complete homework assignments and projects.

“Students need broadband services outside of school and after-school hours,” he said. “Libraries fill the gap and contribute to educational achievement.”

The five libraries and rural school districts will work together to increase internet speeds at the libraries using fixed wireless technology to provide additional access. Up to one gigabit of internet speed will be provided for a designated homework hot spot for school district students and staff.

“This will help close the ‘homework gap’ that rural students face when attempting to complete homework assignments and school projects without a reliable internet source at home,” Wagner said.

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