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As technology for Northwoods students increases, many still lack high-speed internet at homeSubmitted: 03/03/2015

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TOMAHAWK - Many Northwoods school districts face a tricky dilemma.

They want to give students digital resources like laptops to use at school and take home.

But internet access in rural northern Wisconsin can be spotty or unavailable.

The School District of Tomahawk found 86 percent of its students have internet access at home.

But in a survey, only 73 percent of students living outside the City of Tomahawk said they had high speed access.

"There are still many students who either a) can't access the internet or b) can't afford the internet," said Tomahawk Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Nathan Hanson. "We've always got to find ways to overcome that and make accommodations for those kids."

For the first time this year, the district lent Chromebooks to students in Grades 7 and above.

They keep them for the entire year and take them home.

The Chromebooks are set up to access many class resources without connecting to the internet.

But that feature still doesn't provide everything students could need.

"We've got obstacles. We live in trees and lakes," Hanson said. "That internet access is harder to get to, but we're still able to overcome some of that."

Tomahawk is far from the only Northwoods district considering a similar dilemma.

"A rural school district faces a different challenge with this," Hanson said. "But it's a challenge we have to overcome. We have to do it. Any school district that neglects this internet world that we live in is going to be doing a disservice to its kids."

Tomahawk could soon consider giving devices to students as young as elementary school.

The district plans to work with Northwoods broadband groups to keep increasing service in the area.

Story By: Ben Meyer

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