Arkansas Online

By Brian Fanney

BEEBE -- Elementary school students here have visited with a South African penguin hospital, learned from NASA officials, spoken with New Zealanders to understand time zones and conducted a virtual career day with former students from Louisiana to California.

The school district's Internet connection made all that possible, and Beebe Public Schools -- along with about 55 other districts across the state -- received an upgrade over the summer to vastly improve broadband speeds provided by the state.

"It helps Beebe to see that there's a world out there," said Dawn Clevenger, who teaches fourth-grade math, social studies and science at Beebe Elementary School, in a recent interview in her classroom.

Arkansas is in the midst of a project to provide high-speed Internet to each of the state's 276 districts. Progress on the new network -- maintained by the Department of Information Systems and built by about 20 telecommunications companies -- will pause for about a month to allow district information technology departments to deal with the return of students today.

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