Virtual learning: Rural-area students travel for internet access

Coronavirus

ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — High schools across Michigan are preparing for online learning as part of the new COVID-19 restrictions that go into effect on Wednesday.

But what if a student can’t connect virtually? Some students in rural areas of West Michigan don’t have internet access.

News 8 was contacted by a parent who has kids enrolled at Zeeland West High School, saying his daughters drive more than 30 minutes to get to a place to log online and go to school. 

“It’s like really hard,” said Yahaira Martinez, a senior at Zeeland West.

Despite high schools statewide switching to virtual learning, these girls travel to their mom’s house in Holland to log on to their classes.

“It sucks because the school didn’t provide any Wi-Fi for us,” said Vanessa Martinez, a freshman at Zeeland West.

Ignacio Martinez, their father, said when he first heard the news, he was worried.

“I was like, ‘I wonder how we are going to do it because we don’t have internet.’ Not having the internet, they can’t do their homework, they are going to fall behind,” Ignacio Martinez said.

Their dad recently moved to a new home in Allegan where there are no good options for reliable Wi-Fi. Even cell phone service is spotty. And because of COVID-19, libraries along with restaurants and coffee shops are closed or takeout only.

The sisters aren’t left with any other option but to make the 30- to 40-minute trip to their mom’s house for school.

Their parents reached out to the school for help. The girls’ dad said he was given a cold response.

“She said, ‘Well, it’s not my fault you live out in that area,” Ignacio Martinez said of the school’s response.

Martinez says the tech department told him that the girls could drive to school and use the district Wi-Fi from the parking lot.

“To me, it’s like they really don’t care about the students because if they really cared about the students, they would have thought of another way,” Ignacio Martinez said.

Other students are in the same situation as the Martinez sisters, but they may not have a second home as option to log on.

“I just wish they would fix this problem and fix it quick,” Ignacio Martinez said.

News 8 reached out to the district superintendent and school principal but did not hear back.

A school public relations spokesperson said they would provide News 8 with some “helpful documents from the tech team.” News 8 has yet to receive those.

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