Columbia Public Schools will begin to mail out its first wave of Wi-Fi hotspots to students without internet access on Friday. The hotspots will work with all district devices including iPads and laptops to help make online learning accessible for students.

“Our first order of 400 hotspots has arrived,” district spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said in an email. “We had about 200 on hand when we first started our planning.”

The need for hotspots developed after the district announced a transition to remote learning in response to COVID-19 on Monday. The district had its last day of in-person classes Tuesday and has been implementing plans for remote and online learning since Wednesday.

As of Friday, the district plans to reopen school buildings April 13.

Baumstark said the district has a list of families who have indicated a need for Wi-Fi Each household identified will receive one hotspot.

“The hotspots will be mailed to the address for the household on file,” she said.

The first 400 hotspots will meet only part of the demand, but an additional 400 hotspots are on the way, district Director of Technology Services Arla Monroe tweeted Friday.

Baumstark said the next round of hotspots should arrive early next week.

“At that time, we will fulfill the remaining student requests and staff requests,” she said.

Students and families can find informational videos about hotspot setup on the district’s technology services website.

Monroe also reminded students and families in a tweet that Wi-Fi is accessible from the parking lots of all district buildings.

“CPSBest-Guest network is free for students to use and is filtered per district guidelines. If using this WIFI remember Social Distancing,” she tweeted.

The district said its priority for hotspots will be as follows:

  1. Families that self-identified as needing Wi-Fi access.
  2. High school students in credit-bearing courses.
  3. Middle school students.
  4. Fifth-graders.

Baumstark said as of Friday, almost all district employees are conducting their work remotely. She said a few essential staff were still working in district buildings Friday afternoon as they finalize tech-related tasks.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Education reporter, spring 2020, studying investigative journalism and sociology. Reach me at, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

  • Elizabeth Brixey is a city editor at the Columbia Missourian. She oversees coverage of education. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and

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