Education & Broadband
Education and Broadband in Frederick County
As a community, we must provide our children with the best possible education, given the financial and physical factors we can control. In Frederick County, we are fortunate to have such a well-run School District and highly gifted teachers and staff, led by an innovative Superintendent, Dr. David Sovine. In his ten years, he has continually improved the quality of the school district, which is currently ranked 34th out of 132 schools in Virginia, including a rank of 10th in Virginia with the best teachers. Shenandoah University is one of the best small universities in the country, while Lord Fairfax Community College offers a number of technical training courses, in addition to its other degree programs.
Broadband service is also critical in the education of our children, through virtual home learning – now during the COVID-19 pandemic more than ever. Families may have computers or phones, but are not able to connect to the Internet, due to either lack of service or inability to afford the service.
Short-Term Educational Challenges
The future can be bright if we choose to seize it. For inspiration, we can look to the companies that already have provided colleges with on-line learning systems, and adapt them for our K-12 students. We can modify classrooms to safely accommodate students and teachers. We can consider locations other than schools as temporary teaching facilities (businesses and hotels with large conference spaces, for example) if schools cannot ensure social distancing. We can address the requirements of students with special needs and learning disabilities, and then focus our attention on all students. All this would necessarily be a phased plan that may take the full school year to eventually get all students back to the classroom — but everyone involved will be kept as safe as possible.
In 2019, through community involvement, FCSD completed a strategic plan, Inspire 2025: A Promise for Progress outlining goals for Student Success, Culture, Strategic Partnerships, and High Quality Staff. Let’s all work together to follow this plan—Frederick County School Board, Frederick County Board of Supervisors, Virginia Department of Education, the Federal government and all those in the private sector –to secure appropriate funding to plan for the future to ensure we attract and keep the best teachers and staff in an environment conducive to enhance student learning.
The Need for Broadband Service in Frederick County
Broadband service, or high-speed access to the Internet, has become a critical part of our infrastructure, much like housing and transportation. Today’s family is very dependent on being able to access the Internet for educational purposes as well as day-to-day communication – as much as using the phone, if not more. In fact, cell phones now utilize Internet capabilities through a growing number of applications.
Frederick County has done studies dating back to 2013 that have identified the need of families in the more remote areas of the County for broadband service, but solutions have not been implemented. The need persists, and has only become more urgent.
It is not only families in their homes who need broadband, but as more remote areas grow in population, businesses will also grow to serve people, so these businesses will need that connectivity to the Internet. In addition, new schools are being planned and built, which will exponentially increase the need for broadband. Another pressing need is for telehealth calls by healthcare professionals.
Planning for the Future
What we need now is a plan for providing broadband implementation for the remote areas of Frederick County, to be integrated with the entire county and surrounding areas. Frederick County has started applying for state grants for funding; next steps will include providing the infrastructure for the construction of towers, and identifying/obtaining providers of broadband. We cannot wait any longer, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the critical need for connectivity, particularly for the education of our children.
Frederick County is an extremely attractive area for businesses to establish and grow their operations, as we have seen with Navy Federal Credit Union, American Woodmark, Amazon, and many others. As such, broadband is a key infrastructure component for businesses (new and existing), schools, homes, and healthcare. We need to plan and prepare for future growth, particularly in the county’s more remote areas!