Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Fifth Third Foundation, Accelerate Great Schools, Donors Close Digital Divide for Cincinnati Public Schools Students

August 25, 2020

All CPS students can have free broadband internet service from Cincinnati Bell through Connect Our Students program

CINCINNATI (August 25, 2020) — The Connect Our Students program has met its goal to provide free broadband internet access through Cincinnati Bell to every Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) student for the 2020-21 school year. The volunteer-led initiative primarily is funded by Accelerate Great Schools in partnership with GE Aviation; Fifth Third Foundation; Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trusts, Fifth Third Bank, N.A., Trustee; Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF); and donors across the region.

One out of four CPS families don’t have broadband internet access at home. This equates to roughly 3,500 families and 8,500 children for whom school became inaccessible when education shifted online last spring at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This digital divide disproportionally affects Black and Latinx students.

“The Fifth Third Foundation is dedicated to supporting those who are in need, especially during times of distress,” said Heidi Jark, senior vice president and managing director of the Foundation Office. “We are closing the staggering digital divide by joining other organizations in providing broadband internet access – an educational necessity – to our local students.”

CPS recently announced that the district will have distance learning for at least the first five weeks of the upcoming school year and that all Pre-K through 12th-grade students will have devices. Students in grades pre-K through 1 will receive an iPad. Older students will receive laptops. Every CPS family can sign up for the Connect Our Students program. More than 1,700 CPS students have been provided internet service through the program so far.

“The digital divide is an especially challenging obstacle for urban school districts. We are grateful to all of the wonderful organizations and donors who have contributed to the Connect Our Students program, ensuring every child in our CPS family is able to effectively learn in a distance environment,” shared Laura Mitchell, superintendent of CPS. “We encourage all CPS families who don’t have internet access in their homes today, to call and sign up immediately. If you’ve recently moved, please ensure your contact information is updated in our system by calling your school or our customer service line at 513-363-0123.”

Tens of thousands of public school students in Greater Cincinnati do not have reliable computers and broadband internet connections. After a successful pilot program this summer, Connect Our Students will improve digital equity through its partnership with Cincinnati Bell, which is providing low-cost internet connectivity to students across the region (less than $17/month or $200/year). Thanks to the generosity of the community, CPS families will get the service for free for one year, with no installation or equipment fees.

After signing up, families can install the service themselves or request a technician to install it for them in a matter of days. Cincinnati Bell will not hold past balances against any family. The service includes measures to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act to limit access to harmful content and ensure the safety of children.

“The digital divide widens opportunity gaps between students across Cincinnati. Without internet access at home, students lose valuable learning time during this period of distance learning,” explains Brian Neal, CEO of the Cincinnati-based non-profit Accelerate Great Schools. “This initiative will help ensure that all Cincinnati students have equal access to remote learning this school year.”

“When generous organizations and people come together, we are a force to be reckoned with,” said Ellen M. Katz, president/CEO of GCF. “Thank you to the Fifth Third Foundation; Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trusts, Fifth Third Bank, N.A., Trustee; Accelerate Great Schools; and our donors for creating an equitable playing field for our children.”

To sign up, call Cincinnati Bell’s dedicated Connect Our Students line at 513-566-3895.

Connect Our Students also is funded by The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. U.S. Bank Foundation; Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; Interact for Health; Strive Partnership; American Sound and Electronics; Difference Maker Legacy Fund; United Way of Greater Cincinnati; Cincinnati Regional Business Committee; the Giovani Bernard Family Foundation; and Jenny and Tom Williams.

If you are interested in supporting this initiative, visit to donate to support parent outreach and technology support for CPS families.


About Accelerate Great Schools

Accelerate Great Schools (AGS) is a non-profit with the mission to ensure every student in Cincinnati – regardless of zip code – has access to great schools. Since 2015, AGS has invested in district, Archdiocesan, and high-quality, non-profit charter schools to ensure all families have great school options. GE Aviation provides funding to Accelerate Great Schools to support district investments.

About The Fifth Third Foundation

Established in 1948, the Fifth Third Foundation was one of the first philanthropic foundations established by a financial institution. The Fifth Third Foundation supports worthwhile organizations in the areas of education, health and human services, community development and the arts.

About Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trusts, Fifth Third Bank, Trustee

Created in 1903, the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trusts, Fifth Third Bank, N.A., Trustee, supports charitable or educational purposes; for relief in sickness, suffering and distress; for the care of young children, the aged or the helpless or afflicted; for the promotion of education, and to improve living conditions.

About Greater Cincinnati Foundation

As the region’s leading community foundation, Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) connects people with purpose in an eight-county region in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. GCF is leading the charge toward a more vibrant Greater Cincinnati for everyone — now, and for generations to come.