Photo by Healthline
It has been nine months since US schools have closed down in March. During the 2019-2020 school year, schools did not resume in-person instruction and continued to navigate through remote learning. However, after observation and learning what works best, administrators have formulated more structured and advanced plans for the 2020-2021 school year. Many schools are trying their best to create plans that focus on providing and utilizing the best resources for students to be able to continue distance learning, while also receiving a quality education. Several schools have been moving forward as far as integrating back to in-person instruction. But with the rise of COVID-19 cases and the lack of resources some schools provide to their students, the remainder of the school year remains uncertain and will be planned out cautiously.
Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, announced this Sunday that he plans on reopening public elementary schools. However, he plans to keep middle schools and high schools closed. As of now, students will be returning to campus on December 7, abandoning the 3 percent test positivity threshold that was implemented before this new system. The positivity rate has reached 3.9% as of Sunday, yet he says he wants “this to be the plan going forward” as they work hard to bring them back safely. Both Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and de Blasio have faced criticism from parents who are worried about their children. But, as de Blasio mentions, “we know what works from actual experience”, and New York City is making their best efforts to bring back their students as safe as possible.
In the Bay Area, the transition back to in-person instruction has been slower in order to ensure the safest way for children to attend school. Although many schools in the Bay Area are not returning back to campus, some are practicing in-person instruction and implementing precautions and regulations. This includes wearing masks, social distancing, setting up hand washing stations, installing good ventilation, and creating pod groups to limit the exposure to others. Even some are holding conditioning for athletics after school a few times a week. Although some schools in the Bay Area are reopening, mainly private schools, most schools are not. In San Francisco specifically, “The district’s answer is that it is not ready to reopen.”
In Baltimore, Maryland, Ms. Hellman, a 26 year old kindergarten teacher, talks about her experience returning to in-person instruction. With “More than 70,000 schoolchildren” who “left Baltimore classrooms in March”, this reopening leaves both families and staff unsure about what is to come. Ms. Hellman explains that her students for the most part are fairly good at remembering to keep their mask on as to stay away from the “bad germ” - as one student calls it. Assessment rooms are cleaned every day on the hour, every hour. She mentions that “Her only concern was that her remote learners were missing the banter and nonverbal cues her students were getting in the classroom.” But, after the first day of returning to campus with only 6 students, the next day there were an extra 19 students who were previously learning virtually.
The spike in the number of COVID-19 cases due to holiday gatherings creates a blocking figure for educators and families, influencing their plans to return. With the coming few weeks, the plans will become a little clearer, but will still remain very uncertain as we dive into an unknown future. As schools are returning, they are implementing rules like wearing a mask, doing frequent and rigorous COVID testing, installing good ventilation systems, maintaining 6 feet apart, washing hands and sanitizing often, cleaning areas daily, staying in pods, and attending in-person instruction only a few times a week. The main drives to return to campus are the social interaction and the more accessibility and availability of resources, both for receiving help on classwork/homework and for students who don’t have access to online learning devices, that are just not obtainable at home.
If the spike in COVID cases results in schools being forced to shut down again or schools remaining to be closed, this could leave a devastating impact on students who do not have access to online learning devices. As Maria Su, executive director of San Francisco’s Department of Children, says, “We have children who are missing 90 assignments”, which unquestionably demonstrates the need to provide an equitable education to all students, first starting off with giving them online learning devices to continue school virtually.
This year to come, we will be venturing into something very new, just as we have been in the past few months. But from experience, learning how to take advantage of resources, and finding solutions to issues blocking students and staff from receiving and providing quality education, we can take our first few steps in moving forward.
Photo: Gavin Newsom and Tony Thurmond (LA Times)
The beginning of school has arrived for many kids in California, and many others are getting ready for it. This year, about 97% of children are going to be starting the year online due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety precautions.
If schools reopen, they must have a waiver which involves a lengthy application process. However, since school has already started for some kids, that makes getting a waiver harder. Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered that any schools within the counties on a COVID-19 watchlist are not allowed to open up. Unfortunately in recent times it wasn’t updated and had additional data system errors, so 300,000 additional cases were not added.
Tony Thurmond, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, made the prediction that 700,000 kids don’t have access to devices. He also estimated that 300,000 don’t have access to the internet. This makes going to school impossible. On the bright side, 73,000 devices have been given out to those children. $5.3 billion in COVID-19 relief funds are also being used to help schools, such as purchasing technology for the students.
Even though some kids now have access to devices, many are still struggling and will likely fall behind during this upcoming school year. The effort to bridge the digital divide is stronger than ever, and especially pressing with the arrival of the school year. Check out the source linked below for more information.
Photo by LA Times
The digital divide is more prominent now more than ever. With school starting remotely in a few weeks, this escalates a greater need for students to have tech devices in which they can participate in online classes and be able to learn. Alone, the Covid-19 pandemic has “forced an estimated 97% of California’s 6.2 million students to resume their school year online.” We’ve seen how individuals and non-profit organizations are helping through monetary and tech device donations to help students in need. But how are big corporate companies implementing any efforts to help bridge the digital divide?
Recently, a press release from the California Department of Education announced that “Apple and T-Mobile are teaming up to provide California students with up to one million iPads.” With many schools experiencing shortages of tech devices to pull off distance learning, Apple and T-Mobile are fulfilling orders directly from districts. By the end of 2020, they expect to fulfill school district demand. Through Apple’s Professional Learning Team, they are lending a helping hand to California educators (e.g. teachers) by providing weekly virtual training sessions to accommodate any difficulties in transitioning smoothly to teach remotely. By offering one-to-one virtual coaching sessions and many creative techniques that can help with online learning, Apple’s Professional Learning Team can foster student’s virtual learning to be more effective. In more than 300 school districts nationwide, T-Mobile has connected hundreds of thousands of kids for online learning. Mike Katz, the EVP of T-Mobile for Business, states, “The pandemic has exposed just how widespread and detrimental the digital divide is for millions of children in this country … we’re committed to doing something about it, and we’re proud to partner with Apple to help the State of California connect up to a million students when they need it most.”
Big corporate companies using their power to help students receive the tech devices for virtual learning is a major contribution to bridging the digital divide we have today. Even using their voice to speak about the inequity of technology for students gives greater awareness of what is going in our world today. With having companies like Apple and T-Mobile to donate iPads to students, we can hope that more will follow suit and bring a bigger change for those in need.
In the last few weeks, many parents have raised their concerns about school this upcoming fall. If it happens in person, it might not feel safe. If it happens remotely, their children’s learning might be inadequate. In order to find a better solution, parents around the country have started organizing pandemic pods, or “home schooling pods, for the fall, in which groups of three to 10 students learn together under the tutelage of the children’s parents or a hired teacher.”
Pandemic pods could provide families with a school option that is safe, yet fun for their children. In some situations, it may even provide child care while they are working at home. However, pods are expensive, hard to organize, and self-selecting, making them most popular among families of privilege, which worsens educational inequality. For parents who can organize pods and who are able to afford them, pods are an easy choice.
One example of these pandemic pods is occurring here in the Bay Area. In San Francisco, pods organized by Red Bridge School cost $2500 per child per month for a pod size of five. While financial aid is available, this isn’t applicable for all pandemic pods that are beginning to take shape. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that many lower-income families--whose children could fall behind by more than a year due to low-quality to no remote instruction and lack of access to the internet or a digital device—just aren’t able to afford to enter their children into pods.
What most families do is start from a place of self-interest. They ask themselves how to do what’s best for their family, and how to do what’s best for their children. And families who have greater sets of resources tend to use those resources to hoard educational opportunities. Unless something isn’t done to create an equitable solution for children’s learning that is accessible for all, the most well-off families will self-segregate according to privilege, allowing their children to benefit from their wealthy upbringing and leaving children of lower-income families behind.
It’s a no-brainer that the pandemic has turned regular life upside down for everyone. Many are working from home, students are attending school online, restaurants are open only for takeout, and the streets are eerily quiet as everyone has been sheltering in place. But recently I had to ask myself, “How has the pandemic affected me?” Sure, all my schoolwork has been on the computer, I can’t see my friends, and I only leave my house to go to the store or for the occasional walk, but fundamentally, nothing has really changed for me. My family has been lucky enough to be a part of the small percentage of Americans who can safely work from home while still earning the same income. I still have a roof over my head, food on my plate at every meal, and a warm bed to sleep in at night. Unfortunately, many Americans have not had the same pandemic experience as me.
According to the Pew Research Center, as of late March, 29 percent of white Americans said someone in their household had lost their job or work-related income because of the pandemic. However, 36 percent of black Americans and 49 percent of Hispanic Americans said the same. In addition, results taken from a survey conducted by the University of Chicago showed that low-income households were the most concerned about jobs, income stability, and health care coverage. One key finding from the household impact survey states that "More than half of low-income respondents reported being worried about losing their job, compared to less than 20% of higher-income Americans.” These alarming statistics have made one thing clear: the pandemic is disproportionately affecting racial minorities and low-income individuals and families.
In the upcoming months, and maybe even years, there will really be two pandemics in America. The first will seem frightening to its victims, but thanks to their existing advantages and privileges, they will likely emerge from it physically, mentally, and financially stable. But the other pandemic will devastate those who have endured it, leaving lasting scars and changing life as they know it. Which of these two pandemics any given American will experience will be determined by a mix of race and class—influenced strongly by inequality—and random chance.
As the pandemic has furthered the already existing disparities in America, it’s important to take the time to reflect on one’s own pandemic experience. If you find that your experience is likely to be similar to the first pandemic listed, like me, maybe the more important question to ask yourself is not how the pandemic affected you, but how you can use your privileges to help those who are in need.
School districts across the United States are considering whether or not to restart in-person school classes, weighing in the factors and the consequences that may hold for their students, teachers, and families. They are challenged by many fundamental uncertainties, including that no nation has tried to send kids back to school with COVID-19 raging at levels such as America's, and the lack of research and limited understanding about the transmission in classrooms.
Recently, the World Health Organization concluded that the COVID-19 virus is airborne in crowded and indoor spaces with poor ventilation. This is concerning for many as this fits the description of American schools, thus pertaining to the worry of students going back to school in person. However, there is an enormous pressure that is brought upon students to return to schools from President Donald Trump.
An important variable comes into play when deciding whether schools should reopen or not: how widespread the virus is in the community overall. This will affect how many people potentially bring it into school and the amount of people who are likely to get sick with the virus. Due to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and the uncertainty of the future, most school districts have decided to do full distance-learning, and some are planning to do a hybrid between online and in-person learning. Physical distancing and wearing masks in schools can make a huge difference in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Since most schools are planning to do some sort of distance learning, this poses a greater need for children to get the technology they need during this time of physical and emotional distress. Many low-income families do not have the expenses to buy a device, which makes it extremely hard for children to get the necessary learning experience. This lack of technology not only affects students’ inability to complete school assignments, but it also leads them to become unprepared to apply for jobs and other applications. To help bridge the digital divide and to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to acquire academic success, Bridging Tech is able to connect those who do not have technology access by supplying them digital devices. Through working together and helping children to gain a better educational learning, this creates more equity for all students to have access to a virtuous education.
As the tech industry astronomically grows in the Bay Area, it is no surprise that laptops and tablets have become an integral part of classroom learning. In America alone, the educational computer-and-software market has grown to reach a $21 billion evaluation, and Silicon Valley took advantage of this surge.
Tech executives saw the monetary advantages of incorporating devices in everyday learning and worked to make it a reality. After contacting school officials and decision-makers, tech entrepreneurs have created a way of schooling, with technology being vital for learning. Companies such as HP and Microsoft have made hundred-million-dollar deals with school districts in an effort to incorporate their products in everyday schooling. Laptops and tablets are used in math and reading lessons, and homework often takes the form of online quizzes or assignments.
This sudden incline in tech-based learning has opened up a world of inequity and disadvantage for children not already associated with tech. With other states and countries following California’s tech-based learning example, children without the means or knowledge to learn virtually are the most adversely affected. This new schooling system fails to acknowledge children without suitable learning devices at home, or parents without the digital literacy skill to help their children complete assignments.
Having a stable internet connection and home life have become a prerequisite for learning, and while these new policies benefit the majority, often the children who cannot adhere to new learning standards are left behind. The chances of disadvantaged students rising out of such school systems is low, and they cannot be expected to achieve their goals when placed in an environment that sets them up to fail. Providing students with the supplies and opportunities for a fair learning experience begins with bridging the digital divide. We must work to create a new age of technology and learning where the convenience and benefits of digital learning helps all, regardless of socioeconomic circumstances.
While many of us are experiencing the restrictive quarantine and social distancing measures that this pandemic has caused, the virus’s effect on the homeless population has been much more dire. Specifically in San Francisco, center to the largest homeless population in the country, COVID-19 has caused mass displacement and inconvenience for this community.
San Francisco has long been home to some of the most low-income and underprivileged groups in America. However, the recent pandemic has forced the city to address the lack of sanitation, resources, and living spaces for these groups. In the city’s efforts to adjust to recent social distancing and sanitation orders, they have begun opening hotel rooms to homeless people and implementing quarantine measures in select shelters. While these steps have been effective, it has also barred many homeless individuals from living in quarantining shelters and displaced people that aren’t “high risk.”
Roger Moussa, who was recently kicked out of the shelter he was living in, said of the situation, “I feel completely helpless. I have nowhere to go, and every other night I get robbed.” Several citizens have also voiced their concern for the homeless during this time, and how this improper treatment of homeless citizens ends up generating fear in other citizens: “We are only as safe and as protected as our most vulnerable residents.”
The recent outbreak has also affected homeless youth, who depend on schools for not only education, but also for food, hygiene, and health care. The US Interagency Council on Homelessness has made a statement offering further educational support for afflicted youth. They suggest that schools and communities coordinate an effort to provide devices to any who may not have the facilities to learn remotely. However, this response is inadequate and does not address the possibility of a lack of school resources or funding to equip children with such devices.
The Bridging Tech Charitable Fund’s mission is to provide sustainable learning devices for children in these situations. Providing them with devices may prevent cyclical poverty and the lack of education due to systemic causes that is common in these areas. It enables children to learn, regardless of their living situation or socioeconomic status, and it creates a world where education is accessible to all.