Light Board to fully fund student technology program

The program provides internet to students in need for the school year

WESTFIELD- The Municipal Light Board (MLB) voted unanimously Oct. 7 to fully fund the Adopt-a-Student Technology Program to provide internet access to students who do not have it while remote learning continues through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski and former Mayor Brian P. Sullivan spoke during public participation at the MLB meeting Wednesday evening to advocate for the program in the hopes of having Westfield Gas and Electric provide assistance for the program. 

“Last spring was a disaster for getting some students on the internet during the pandemic,” said Czaporowski.

When schools closed in the spring due to the pandemic, about 170 students in the district were unable to gain internet access to participate in remote learning. Czaporowski said that Sullivan and his longtime girlfriend Sonia Brockney approached him with the idea to create a fund to provide students with internet access. The idea was approved by the School Committee on Sept. 21. 

The program works by providing the students who need internet access with verizon hotspots that they can connect to using their school devices. Czaporowski and Sullivan said that it costs about $250 per student. With about 170 students with the need, the program costs about $42,000. Before the MLB meeting Wednesday, about $10,000 had been raised. 

“We also understand that this is only a one-year program,” said Sullivan, “This is a one-time COVID issue that never would have come up normally.”

Ward 5 Commissioner Thomas Flaherty said that it would make sense for Westfield Gas and Electric to contribute to the rest of the cost now that the city is no longer asking the municipal utility for the $1 million in financial assistance due to COVID-19. 

“It’s nice that we have a solid ask with a tangible benefit to the children and the city,” said Ward 6 Commissioner and Chairman Robert Sacco, “If you find that the funding is short, come back.”

The MLB voted unanimously to contribute an additional $35,000 to the program to make it fully funded.

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