GRASS VALLEY (CBS13) – Most parents face distance learning dilemmas on a daily basis, but in rural areas, the problems posed can be even bigger if students struggle with finding a good internet connection.

Nevada Union High School senior Kat Coaker knows firsthand the struggles of living in a digital world, including when it comes to her classes.

“You think your senior year is going to be the best and then it’s like this,” Coaker said.

Her school was recently sent back to full distance learning as COVID cases climb in the county. She said learning has become even more difficult. Her home’s wi-fi simply isn’t reliable enough for her and her two brothers.

“Sharing that internet at home, it doesn’t work at all,” Coaker said. “I’d be absent to most classes, which is not good.”

Concerns like these, when connections aren’t strong, are what prompted a network of organizations in the Nevada County area to link up. Nonprofit Bright Futures for Youth paired up with the county and the Nevada County Fairgrounds to make a distance learning center in the heart of Grass Valley.

“This time has been so difficult,” said Cori Ove, the Youth Hub site coordinator. “It’s a great example of when communities get together and collaborate, you can do great things.”

More Learning Curve stories from CBS13:

The center provides free internet and supervision for students during the school day. It also opens up the fairgrounds to locals for leisure, like walking or biking. Fairgrounds nationwide have been struggling with little to no business during the pandemic. Patrick Eidman, the CEO of the fairgrounds in Nevada County, said this project gives them purpose.

“It’s really going to allow us to step up in a way we’re accustomed to,” Eidman said. “Serving the community and addressing a critical community need.”

The Youth Hub can work with up to 40 kids at a time, but at the moment only serves a handful. Though as more districts discuss heading back to a full at-home schedule, it could change.

“I do expect we’ll see our numbers go up,” said Ove.

With room to grow, there’s hope more students like Coaker may take advantage of it in the battle against bad broadband.

The Nevada County Schools Superintendent said 80% of one particular district’s population doesn’t have reliable internet. The county put forth $450,000 towards the project and supervisors believe the money was well spent.

Heather Janssen