Students in 12 rural Minnesota school districts including Shakopee will now have improved access to wireless internet at home and on the school bus thanks to state funding.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and the department of education announced the grant recipients on Thursday.  More than 30 school districts in greater Minnesota applied for the grants funded by a $500,000 initiative from the offices of Gov. Mark Dayton and Smith to offer high speed internet to rural communities with students from low-income families. Dayton and Smith worked with the Minnesota Legislature to fund the grant program.

“Too many Minnesota students are on the wrong side of the digital divide,” Lt. Governor Tina Smith said in a news release. “These grants will help level the playing field for students in Greater Minnesota by providing them the same educational opportunities as their friends and family in the cities.”

The grants will go toward providing students with access to the internet while riding the bus and at home in hopes of keeping them on par with their urban peers, according to the release.

 “If we want all students to be successful, we need to make sure we are providing them the tools they need,” Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius  said. “Where a student lives and their family income should not determine whether they are able to complete their schoolwork or not.”

The Shakopee School District received $34,574 in grant funding. Shakopee was the only metro area district chosen for the grant. 

Lake of the Woods School District in Baudette, Minnesota also received $49,840. Students spend more than two hours riding the bus to and from school in the Lake of the Woods School District, which is a standard amount of time for students in rural Minnesota, according to the release.  

With the funding, districts will add wireless hotspots on their school buses and give students the chance to check out mobile broadband devices to use at home.