The Church as a Hotspot: Providing Internet Access to Students in Southern Maryland

by | Sep 17, 2020

There are no words to express the gratitude we have for our St. Mary’s County educational system. The teachers and administrators are working extra hard to understand and learn a process whereby our children can be educated during these uncertain times. Their dedication is an inspiration and a blessing.

For several years, Church of the Ascension in Lexington Park, Maryland has been in a partnership with Lexington Park Elementary school, offering an after-school tutoring program for primary students. When the coronavirus pandemic required the closure of school buildings and a pivot to online learning, we approached Dr. Rebecca Schou, principal of Lexington Park Elementary and Ms. Kelly Courtney, principal of Piney Point Elementary to see how we could help. They indicated a desire that we continue to support their students and during our discussion about what the help might look like, we learned that of the 18,000+ students in the St. Mary’s County Public Schools district, there are 147 families without access to the internet.

In direct response to the needs expressed by our principals, this fall we will expand our tutoring program by offering Church of the Ascension and St. George’s in Valley Lee as points of internet connectivity, supervised “hotspots” where students can bring their devices and access the virtual classroom. We’re inviting parents, too. 

We’ll host two daily sessions Monday through Thursday–one group from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m., and a second from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. To start, we have six 2nd and 3rd graders per session lined up. We’re working with both the school system and  the SMC Department of Health to be fully compliant with CDC guidelines. 

We’ve also established volunteer opportunities for college and high school students looking for credit and service hours. SMCPS uses the Schoology platform, which is directed by the classroom teacher so the role of the volunteer will be monitoring, making sure students are able to log in, and answering questions. As we grow our volunteer corps, we’re looking to our surrounding communities: our sister Episcopal churches, young professionals’ groups, the College of Southern Maryland and St. Mary’s College, and high school students. The need is high and we welcome those who can help. 

If you’d like to volunteer, please email me

The Rev. Marty Eldredge
Deacon, Church of the Ascension, Lexington Park and St. George’s, Valley Lee