Bridging the digital divide for Fairfax County students

Every day, thousands of children in the D.C. area, including in Fairfax County, experience what many would consider unimaginable in 2015. They must do their homework offline because of a lack of an internet connection.

FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA9) -- Every day, thousands of children in the D.C. area, including in Fairfax County, experience what many would consider unimaginable in 2015. They must do their homework offline because of a lack of an internet connection. 

The inability to access what has become an invaluable learning tool caught the eye of Don Rippert, a local IBM executive who wants to fix the digital divide where he grew up. 

"What do you tell those kids? You should get a second class education because your folks don't have enough money to buy you complicated electronics?" Rippert said. 

Rippert is a 1978 graduate of Groveton High School, which closed and merged into West Potomac High School. He saw a story WUSA9 did highlighting the problem two years ago and decided to do something about it.

"I just would like to level the playing field a little bit for those people because it just doesn't seem right to me. I'm amazed it's even legal," Rippert said. 

Rippert donated $25,000, which was matched by Christian Relief Services, to pay for computers and Internet Connection for students at Bucknell Elementary School, a school that feeds into West Potomac. 80 percent of the students at Bucknell are eligible for free and reduced lunch, which is a measure of poverty. 

"It's an opportunity for us to bridge the digital divide. A lot of our students know how to use computers because we have some that are available at the school. These computers will travel home," Tim Slayter, Bucknell Principal said. 

The computers will be like a textbook and be issued to all fourth, fifth and sixth graders. And for those kids who don't have an Internet connection at home, they'll receive one year of free service through Cox. 

Don Rippert is hoping others will follow his lead and bring computers and Internet connection to the rest of the children in Fairfax County who need it.  

Cox provides low-cost Internet connection to low-income families, but many eligible families do not use it, either because they don't know about it or cannot afford it.

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