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SC to use TV signal to get school lessons to rural students

The state will use SCETV to deliver 'datacasting' for school lessons to rural students.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina will use the state's public broadcasting system tv signal to deliver nternet school lessons to some students in rural parts of the state.

Gov. Henry McMaster--joined by Education Superintendent Molly Spearman, SCETV officials, and local school districts--announced Wednesday a plan to use what's called "datacasting." 

In short, it will use SCETV's broadcast television signal to transmit files and data to computers in homes. That will give children with limited or no broadband signal access to the same resources that would require an internet connection. 

The state and local districts will have to provide the students and parents with some special equipment to make that work, but once it's up and running, it should improve their experience. 

"We're going to do evertying we can to make sure students get a first-class education," McMaster said. 

Right now the program is being tested, or piloted, in three school districts: Fairfield, Jasper, and York District One. However, the plan is to roll it out to more districts in the coming weeks. 

Fairfield County School District Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green said he is excited for his district to be apart of the program.

"This is a nice measure, but because it is only one way communication it is not ideal.. As we know learning is an interactive process, and so if you do not have an opportunity for teachers and students to engage in real time then that’s obviously not ideal scenario," Green said. "But in the absence of that I think this could be a viable option.”

Green said they hope to get this program up and running as soon as possible.

RELATED: Internet hotspots, wired internet service coming to at least 100K households for students across SC

Overall, it's hoped it could help between 3,000 and 5,000 students learn. 

Spearman said it's not intended to be a long-term solution to internet access problems: that will be addressed by other efforts to expand broadband in rural areas. 

SCETV's signal covers about 98 percent of the state. 

RELATED: Support available for working Sumter families with virtual learners

South Carolina has been working to help those students in other ways since the pandemic began, including giving 100,000 mobile hotspots for them to connect to the internet and even using school buses for data transmission. 

Target districts for the datacasting program were picked by the state education department using the following guidelines:

  • Per capita COVID-19 Infections in each school district
  • Percentage of students in poverty in each school district in the current school year. Students in poverty are students who qualify for Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Familes (TANF) or are homeless, transient, or in foster care
  • Each school district's ability to use remote learning during the period of school closures. School districts used eLearning, blended learning or paper and pencil packets during closure
  • Each school district's index of taxpaying ability (ITA), a measure of the district's relative wealth compared to all other districts in the state

Watch the Full Datacasting News Conference Below: