Six school districts responded to the survey that they had no plan in place to offer remote learning.
Some districts are finding creative ways to get digital access to students who don’t have it. Near St. Louis, the Belleville Township High School District has repurposed four school buses as Wi-Fi hot spots. The district already owned the buses, which are Wi-Fi-equipped and used for field trips and academic, athletic and band activities.
“We thought, well, rather than have them sit … we’ve identified four parks each day within our boundaries and they sit in the park,” Assistant Superintendent Brian Mentzer said. “People pull up — they can be within about 300 feet of the bus — log in, download the information they need and then they have the opportunity to get their work if they don’t have connectivity at home.”
About two weeks ago, Mentzer said, the district surveyed families about their digital capabilities. Although the area for the most part has strong broadband internet access, not everyone had Wi-Fi or enough devices to go around. The school bus Wi-Fi is strong enough to let several cars at once download schoolwork, he said.
“It worked out great. Someone had a great idea and we made it work,” Mentzer said.
The digital divide, also referred to as the “homework gap,” is wider for teens who live in low-income households — those that earn less than $30,000 a year — with one in five lacking access to a computer or reliable internet, according to analysis by the Pew Research Center that relies on 2015 census data. It’s wider still for black and Hispanic teens from low-income homes, Pew found.
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