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Remote learning in remote locations: Washington students without internet options face challenges

One North Mason School District family drives 40 minutes from their home in a wooded area for internet access for school.

MASON COUNTY, Wash. — Ashley Murphy liked the idea of living in the forest.

“I wanted something rural. I wanted something remote,” Murphy said.

But that meant her family’s home wouldn't have access to the internet. There are no connection options that reach their home, and cellular service is not reliable.

That became an issue for the mother of three when schools went online only last spring.

“We live in the 21st century,” Murphy said. “You wouldn’t think that this would be an issue.”

Access to the internet is an issue for numerous families.

North Mason School District Superintendent Dana Rosenbach estimates 10% to 15% of her students don’t have reliable internet at home. She said the district has worked to reduce that number this fall.

Every morning, Murphy takes her children to a friend’s house more than 40 minutes away in Shelton.

Her children access their live online classes and recorded materials, but once they get picked up in the afternoon, they're not able to do much.

“If we don’t finish our school work, then we’re behind and we have to catch up the next day. And if we don’t catch up, we’re even more behind,” said 13-year old Autrianna, who is learning algebra online.