Digital divide

December 03, 2020

On November 19, Mayor Bill de Blasio closed New York’s public schools. He has been joined by other mayors and education officials throughout the country struggle over whether to keep their...

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On November 19, Mayor Bill de Blasio closed New York’s public schools. He has been joined by other mayors and education officials throughout the country struggle over whether to keep their local schools open for in-class or offer only remote learning. The Covid-19 pandemic has entered yet another wave and, as of mid-November, over 11 million people have been infected and nearly 250,000 have died.

While initially limited to the east coast, especially the New York metropolitan area, the pandemic has now spread throughout the country, especially to Texas, Florida and mid-west states. And more governors and mayors are moving aggressively to contain the pandemic’s spread through requirements for citizens to wear masks, social distancing and closings of bars, restaurants and churches.

During the pandemic’s first wave in the spring, schools were closed to contain its spread. In the summer, debate about a fall reopening galvanized political debate throughout the country. On July 6, Pres Donald Trump tweeted, “Schools must open in the fall!!!” A month later, on July 7, in a warning to Democratic governors, he announced, “We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”

While governors and mayors throughout the county moved to open schools for the fall semester, many raised serious concerns about the health consequences of a premature opening. In addition, many did not want the president to tell them what to do and unions, workers’ rights groups and parent organizations initially come out against forced school openings.

Dan Domenech, executive director of the American School Superintendents Association, laid out the problem facing schools. “The reality is that probably the majority of school districts, and there are more than 13,000 of them, don’t have the ability to provide continuous virtual online instruction,” he reported. “This experience may accelerate virtual learning in schools, but right now it is definitely inequitable for students without internet access or a computer at home, and inequitable for the special-education population,” he warned.

Making matters worse, school-age kids without internet access at home had previously used libraries, community centers and restaurants for Wi-Fi access, but in efforts to contain the pandemic many of these venues closed.

Excerpted: ‘Covid-19, Schools and the Digital Divide’

Counterpunch.org



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