When schools were suddenly forced into full-time distance learning last spring, there was little time to plan. Some districts were prepared, and faced few challenges like students whose parents didn’t have computers, tablets, or internet access at home.
Other districts, where there were more low-income students who didn’t speak English as a first language, whose parents all worked outside the home, and for whom internet was still a luxury, found themselves facing an insurmountable task.
2 of our children trying to get WiFi for their classes outside a Taco Bell in East Salinas! We must do better & solve this digital divide once &for all for all California students
— Luis Alejo⚖️ (@SupervisorAlejo) August 26, 2020
And even with the summer to plan, some of those hurdles have proven too high to jump in just a few months – a truth evidenced in one simple, heartbreaking picture of two siblings sitting in a Taco Bell parking lot because they don’t have internet at home.
The picture was taken in Monterey County, California, an area that faces many of the challenges that lower-income districts are struggling with still today. The picture was taken by a district supervisor, Luis Alejo, who posted it with a call for universal broadband for students in the area.
Kids like these two are supposed to get their work done, and will be marked down for not turning it in on time, whether or not they have access to the internet on a regular basis – how is that fair?
Another California legislator, Kevin de Leon, says that 40% of Latinos in the area lack internet access.
In this case, the Salinas City Elementary School was able to identify the two students, and has provided their family with a hot spot to keep at home.
Two students sit outside a Taco Bell to use Wi-Fi so they can 'go to school' online.
This is California, home to Silicon Valley…but where the digital divide is as deep as ever.
Where 40% of all Latinos don't have internet access. This generation deserves better. pic.twitter.com/iJPXvcxsLQ
— Kevin de Leόn (@kdeleon) August 28, 2020
Great news for these two, but as Parents.com reports, around 15-16 million K-12 public school students lack high speed internet, a computer, or both. Rural and diverse communities comprise most of these students, which concerns educators as far as an existing education gap continuing to widen.
It’s clear that things are going to have to change – substantial things with big price tags – if we’re going to make and keep remote learning a viable option here in the States.
Here’s hoping the “leaders” with the power to enact change will find a way soon to focus on what’s really important.