With Alaska schools now closed until May 1 due to the coronavirus, hundreds of Kodiak students are expected to return to classes next month — from home. The Kodiak Island Borough School District will aim to deliver instruction to students of all ages through the internet, and is relying heavily on internet connectivity in students’ homes to make that happen.

Internet and phone service company GCI made that easier last week with an announcement that they will provide free internet services to students in need until May 31.

The special services will provide internet service to households that currently do not have internet connectivity, or improved bandwidth to households with a limited connection.

“GCI is committed to keeping Alaskans connected and making things a little easier for everyone as our community grapples with big changes in our personal and professional lives,” said GCI Chief Customer Experience Officer Maureen Moore in a news release. “We’re dedicated to serving the communities where we live and work, and we hope these new offerings help ease the strain our neighbors are feeling during this stressful time.”

 The company is working directly with the Department of Education and Early Development and the Alaska Council of School Administrators to help get internet connectivity to K-12 students and educators who may not currently have access, according to the news release.

 “It’s a massive effort, and GCI is happy to provide free connectivity for K-12 students and their teachers to ensure students can continue their education from home. We hope our support is one small piece that helps ensure that the home-based learning is successful for students, teachers, families  and school districts across Alaska,” said Dr. Pam Lloyd, Vice President of GCI Corporate Strategy for Government, Healthcare and Education

Kodiak Island Borough School District Superintendent Larry LeDoux said the program will likely provide new internet connectivity to around 100 families in the district who currently lack internet in their homes.

“It’s very important to us,” LeDoux said, explaining that the new service will allow the district to rely on online instruction delivery for all students.

 According to the news release, households that currently have GCI Internet plans can receive a free upgrade to the next level plan for no additional cost through May 31 by calling customer service or visiting their GCI web account.

 “The purpose of this upgrade is to support customers who may be working from home, have household members in school, and provide greater connection for those who are social distancing in the coming days and weeks,” according to the news release. 

 For households with no internet plan, GCI is offering entry-level cable modem internet plans for free “because it is critical for Alaskans to have access to information in the coming weeks and months.”

GCI also offers Lifeline services for eligible customers who meet the federal qualifications. Lifeline is a federal program that provides wireless service for handheld devices for $1 per month. 

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