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Guilford County Schools pushing forward with Saturday internet hubs, despite just 51 students showing up
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Guilford County Schools pushing forward with Saturday internet hubs, despite just 51 students showing up

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GREENSBORO — Only 51 students took advantage of one of the 60 Saturday internet hubs that debuted over the weekend, Guilford County Schools officials said Tuesday.

Despite the low turnout, the district still plans to offer the service, at least through this weekend. The internet hubs are among several efforts by the district to connect students who started the school year working remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

These schools are offering free internet and snacks for students and their families from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. No advance registration is required, but students in grades K-5 must be accompanied by a parent. Older students can come alone but must show a student ID or schedule. 

Chief of Schools Tony Watlington said Tuesday the district continues to feel an obligation to do whatever it can to get students and families access to internet and other help, and that they got a great response from the families that did take advantage on the first Saturday of the service.

They also see this as a way of connecting with families that may not yet have enrolled their children. 

As of a week ago Tuesday, the district had 69,613 students enrolled across all grades, including pre-K. That's down from about 73,000 last academic year.

Watlington said the district is especially trying to reach kindergartners and their families who may not yet have enrolled. They look at offering these Saturday internet hubs as a way to connect with families that may have delayed signing up or are weighing options.

Each hub is set up to allow for up to 30 visitors inside at a time, including parents and students. Watlington said some of the 60 hubs had no visitors on Saturday. He said he expects participation to increase as the hubs become more familiar to families, but after the second session this weekend the district should have a better sense of how many it will continue.

The Saturday internet hubs are similar, but not identical to, the learning centers the district is also offering. More than 200 students are signed up for the learning centers, which are expanding from 13 to 23 school sites on Thursday. 

Both aim to help students who lack good internet access at home, however, the learning centers are aimed solely at students, while the Saturday internet hubs are more aimed at whole families, including students and parents. 

Students in the learning centers are likely to be in the midst of their daily classes, while families using the internet hubs are more likely to be catching up on work or troubleshooting.

Watlington said that bilingual staff are present at some of the sites and if a family arrives at a site without a staff member that speaks their language, the district will still find someone to work with them.

Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.​

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