Educators face the digital divide

District finds a wide disparity in access to the internet — now essential for remote learning

WSESU Superintendent Lyle Holiday sees a fundamental challenge to the task of adapting the school system to home environmnents: that families have differing levels of internet connectivity.

Some families have access to reliable internet, while others have access only to dialup. Some can't afford the internet, and some live in areas without the internet at any price. And meanwhile, she added, some families don't want the internet in their home - or their children online at all.

Gregg Stoller serves as the district behavior coach. In non-COVID-19 times, he works with the district's school counselors and focuses on the social, emotional, and academic development of students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

During the COVID-19 response, Stoller has taken a logistical role around supporting families. Recently, he has worked with a team of counselors to ensure communication with families and categorize their level of internet access.

Right now, the team is working with 30 families who need extra support. Each family's situation is different, so each response needs to be personalized, Stoller said.

Barriers to students' education might not hinge just on whether they have access to the internet, he said.

But access is critical to keep students on equal footing. Stoller added that COVID-19 has highlighted how important it is for communities to have equity as a central building block.

He acknowledged that internet providers have offered to install free service for eligible families, but some won't receive the service until mid-May.

“That's not a criticism; it's just to point out that it's not as easy as it might seem,” he said.

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