Film Highlights Digital Divide, Students Lacking InternetBy Amy Wadas

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MCKEES ROCKS (KDKA) — The struggles of a local school district are featured in a new documentary that brings to light why technology is desperately needed for students to succeed.

It’s a documentary directed by Rory Kennedy and narrated by Jamie Foxx.

“Without a Net: The Digital Divide in America” is a film that brings to the forefront the plight of millions of students in both the inner cities and rural areas across the country who are left behind and without access to internet.

“It was a good opportunity for us to vent our frustration on how we’re not being funded fairly with other school districts,” said Sto-Rox School District Superintendent Frank Dalmas.

Sto-Rox School District was the only district from the Pittsburgh area featured in this film. Superintendent Frank Dalmas said it’s a district that struggles every day to get its students the most state-of-the-art technology. The district had a grant to purchase Chromebooks, but they sat for a year and a half before they could even be used.

“They were gathering dust. We literally did dust them off when we had to get them off when we had to get them used,” Dalmas said.

The district had to take $25,000 from its general fund to get selected hotspot locations installed. Hotspots were installed in the library, classrooms and a few hallways. Students were able to start using the Chromebooks in January.

There are about 180 of these Chromebooks in the school district and the superintendent would like to see all 1,500 students have one of their own, but he doesn’t think it’s going to happen.

“Our students know we lack. They’re aware of what other districts have surrounding us. They’re more affluent school districts. Their technology is state of the art. It’s up to date,” Dalmas said.

Around 40 percent of students in the Sto-Rox School District go on to a university or community college. However, Dalmas said these students are finding out that they are behind when it comes to technology.

“They should have equal education and they don’t. That’s what I’m hoping this film shows and highlights and people kind of sit up and notice and legislators notice,” Dalmas said.

The film is premiering on the National Geographic Channel on Tuesday at 10 p.m. It is also screening at the New York Film Festival.