New Haven takes steps to bridge digital divide among students

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– New Haven Public Schools are not offering any in-person education options until at least mid-November. With all those students logging in from home, the city needed a way to bridge what is called the “digital divide.”

The divide is the gap between kids who can easily access the internet, and those who cannot. Step one for bridging that is to get a computer of some kind into the hands of every student in the district.

Related: New Haven Public Schools making remote learning access equal among all students

This week, donated Dell laptops are being handed out to high schools kids, tablets are going to the youngest students, and Chromebooks to the ones in between.

“I can safely say that we have a device for every child in New Haven Public Schools,” said New Haven Schools Superintendent Dr. Iline Tracey.

Step two is internet access. Families with Comcast can sign up for free internet. There are hotspot devises going to certain families, especially with multiple kids. Plus entire school buildings have been wired with external WiFi creating what’s called a “mesh” network.

“Let’s say for a student that lives across the street and in some cases we’ve seen that our penetration goes about two and a half blocks into the neighborhood,” said Sabina Sitaru, an IT expert for the school district. “It all depends too on if there’s trees or large buildings. That kind of degrades it.”

Step three is that, once the hardware is in place, make sure parents know how to use it. The district is essentially going to hold classes for parents.

“To insure that they are able to access the site with their students so they can at least have a sense of what is going on and support their young ones in getting on the Google suites that we have,” said Dr. Tracey

The district can afford all this thanks to millions in federal money from the CARES Act. Officials worry, however, that the families who need this help the most are the ones least likely to know about it because they don’t have internet or cable TV.

If you know a family with kids in the New Haven schools system, and they are struggling to log on to the internet, let them know they should contact the school district for more information.

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