For Poorer Students, School Shutdowns Illustrate a Problem

Some families don't have internet or computers at home
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 30, 2020 11:51 AM CDT
Digital Divide a Problem Amid School Shutdowns
This WiFi-enabled school bus, seen at an apartment complex in Winnsboro, SC, is one of many being sent to rural and lower-income areas around South Carolina to help students with distance learning during the new coronavirus outbreak.   (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

The pandemic that has launched a massive, unplanned experiment with distance learning has created extraordinary hurdles for schoolchildren left behind by the digital divide, per the AP. School districts and governments are now racing to give the millions of US students without home internet a chance of keeping up. Nationwide, nearly 3 million students make do without home internet because of the high costs of service and gaps in its availability. The disadvantaged students are more likely to be students of color, from low-income families or in households with lower parental education levels. The nation's largest school districts, including Los Angeles and New York, are spending millions of dollars to provide devices and internet connections for students. Smaller districts are finding ways to boost wireless internet in school parking lots and distribute hot spots.

Still others are sticking with paper assignments and books because the digital equity issues are too much to overcome. "What we're seeing is a widening of the achievement gap, so that children who are in well-funded districts were able to immediately pivot to online learning strategies, because the infrastructure was already in place," said Maura McInerney, legal director of the Education Law Center, which advocates for disadvantaged students. "In sharp contrast, underfunded districts, who did not have these resources and their children do not have access to Chromebooks, for example, are scrambling to address the educational needs of students." Read the full story for more, including the plight of a South Carolina mother limiting her own phone usage to leave enough data for her daughter's homework.

(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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