Western Albemarle High School

For many years, students in Crozet, Virginia lacked the reliable and affordable internet service they needed to do research or complete homework. A new cell tower on the grounds of Western Albemarle High School should improve their broadband access dramatically while helping to bridge the digital divide.

Milestone Communications built the 100-foot monopole, its third tower for Albemarle County. The latest tower, completed July 30, is located behind the home bleachers on Western Albemarle High School’s football field.

Shentel Communications, a Sprint affiliate, will lease space on the tower, which has room for two more carriers. Albemarle County Public Schools will receive 40% of all gross revenue generated from the carriers located on the tower.

Equipment on top of the tower will enable the school’s private LTE network to help provide service to 400 students in the Crozet area. In an article published last fall in The Daily Progress, Jamie Foreman, interim head of the school division’s department of learning, access, engineering and design, said the tower will “contribute to meeting the school division’s priority to continue to eliminate the learning opportunity gap.”

Albemarle schools spokesman Phil Giaramita echoed that sentiment in a July 2019 story posted on “Cell towers that meet federal safety and environmental standards can narrow this gap by improving the availability, quality, and reliability of school and community access,” said Giaramita.

With the new wireless tower, students are much less likely to face the type of scenario encountered by Western Albemarle High’s Joe Barrese when he took a math class that required him to take notes on videos watched at home.

“I literally could not start the video,” Barrese told The Daily Progress. “I would have to wait until the next school morning, wake up an hour early, drive to school, get to the library and connect to the Wi-Fi so I could watch her videos and I could get the homework done in my class.”

Said Milestone’s Chris Harold: “These types of experiences provide powerful reminders of the fundamental role that wireless connectivity plays in educating our future leaders. It’s a good feeling to build something that results in learning opportunities for more students, regardless of their location or economic background.”