Experts give tips for secure, strong internet as GIPS Virtual School enrollment increases

Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 7:13 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - More students enrolled in the GIPS Virtual School seemingly overnight, and as more families prepare for this new year of e-learning, you might want to add internet to your back-to-school checklist.

There are now 693 elementary students signed up for the Virtual School. That’s 23 more than Tuesday afternoon.

“I think there is a need for it in our community,” said Whitney Flower, who was recently named elementary principal of GIPS Virtual School.

Flowers said online learning will look very different this semester than it did in the spring.

At the elementary level, there will be 29 teachers from across the district dedicated specifically to the Virtual School. Fifteen specialists will support special education students and provide special classes like music and PE. Some specialists also might work both virtually and in the physical buildings.

Flowers said students will have a daily schedule packed with learning. Their day might include live Zooms with teachers or independent work on activities. Overall, the student schedules are still a work in progress.

“I’m really excited to be at the helm of something innovative and something different,” Flowers said. “We want to keep the safety of our students. That is a priority.”

To complete this online learning at home, students will need a strong WiFi connection. With more people in the house, extra devices on the same network could cause a lag for in-home internet.

“If they do see that dreaded circle and buffering, the first thing I would do is find out how many people are actively using the internet at one time,” said Stephanie Laux, an internet expert with Kinetic by Windstream. “If they are seeing that more frequently, then it would be important for them to contact their provider and see if they can get that upgrade.”

The next piece of the puzzle is securing your network. Laux says it’s important to have anti-virus software, theft protection and anti-spam and malware to prevent hackers from accessing your information.

You should also back up your device at least once a month and practice good computer hygiene. Change passwords often and make them complicated enough that others couldn’t guess them.

If you’re in a more rural area and often struggle with poor broadband, Laux says you should reach out to your provider to see what they can do.

“A lot of providers have opportunities for students to get access to that important broadband service if they don’t have it at home, because it will be an increasingly important tool for our students and people working at home going forward,” Laux said.

Flowers said if there are students enrolled in GIPS Virtual School who don’t have access to WiFi, staff will work with the family to figure out a solution. She said they are considering special circumstances as the school continues to enroll students in the virtual program.

Copyright 2020 KSNB. All rights reserved.

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