Home News COVID-19 Situation Roswell woman organizing internet help for RISD families

Roswell woman organizing internet help for RISD families


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A report of a student sitting outside his school every day to do his remote learning because he had no internet at home spurred one Roswell woman to do something. She’s helped not just that student but is working to help others as well.

Shelby Dutton said she learned of the boy from a teacher she knows at his school about two weeks before a Facebook post went viral locally last week.

“It was just heartbreaking to hear that there was a student sitting outside. I just couldn’t handle that,” Dutton said.

“I just felt that we needed to get that taken care of. I spoke to some of my friends and they were willing to help out,” she said.

Dutton said several local organizations were also willing to help.

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After that Facebook post began to spread, Dutton said she learned of other RISD students without internet access. She started a GoFundMe fundraiser with a goal of helping 10 students by raising $2,500. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had exceeded that goal.

Dutton said she has since helped two other students get a year’s worth of internet access at their homes, and has her sights on helping more.

“I feel there’s a need for it, so I’m going to start a nonprofit to keep this going, try to do this every year to help the students since we don’t know if they’re going to continue to be virtual learners,” she said.

Dutton said she expects it will be several weeks before the as-yet-unnamed organization has its tax identification from the IRS.

Dutton is working with RISD Superintendent Mike Gottlieb to identify families who could use help. Gottlieb said the district created a method to do so while still protecting student confidentiality.

“What we came up with was a form for the parents to sign that they’re willing for us to release their name, address and telephone number to companies that are willing to help or individuals that are willing to help,” Gottlieb said.

“If they don’t sign off, we don’t give the information,” he said.

While the district was able to provide a Chromebook device to all students who requested one by the start of the 2020-21 school year, Gottlieb said about 43% of students still do not have internet access at home, based on surveys the district conducted over the summer.

That is an improvement from the 53% in the spring, when schools first shifted to remote learning after state health orders closed school buildings.

Dutton is not the only one who has offered to help students with internet access, Gottlieb said.

T-Mobile gave donations and Sparklight and Plateau both offered lower prices for internet access, he said. A form to certify educational need for Plateau service can be found on the RISD website.

“The prices have dropped for student usage during this period of time only. I know that has helped parents quite a bit in that sense, too. And then we’ve had some families just step up and say ‘We know this family needs some support and we’re going to help them out.’ We’ve seen a lot of people open up their hearts and their pockets and just donating to help,” Gottlieb said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

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