School District will use $11 Million to Help Bridge the Digital Divide Among Students
PHILADELPHIA — On Thursday, March 26, the Board of Education approved the School District of Philadelphia’s $11 million request to purchase up to 50,000 Chromebooks for students who do not have access to technology while schools are closed in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus).
A 2019 survey by the District found that only:
45% of students in grades 3-5 have access to the internet from a computer at home
56% of students in grades 6-8 have access to the internet from a computer at home
58% of students in grades 9-12 have access to the internet from a computer at home
The School District has been working on a plan to provide all students with access to digital learning opportunities in the event that schools remain closed long term due to coronavirus response efforts. The plan provides a Chromebook to every District student who needs one for learning at home and makes digital content available to help students retain and learn skills with the support of a teacher.
The District will determine the exact number of new devices to purchase once the central office works with each school to determine how many Chromebooks they currently have in their schools for distribution and how many of their students will need one.
“The digital divide in Philadelphia has been long standing, with many communities having access to in-home computers and internet services for their children while many still do not,” said Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D. “This inequity is a significant barrier to our goal of helping all students in every neighborhood reach their full academic potential.”
In addition to providing the devices, the District continues to work with the City to create a comprehensive list of low-cost Internet options or access to free WiFi mobile hotspots across the City. The list will be available on the District’s website and the City of Philadelphia’s website by the week of April 6.
For those families who reside in areas of the city where Xfinity WiFi is available, Comcast is making Xfinity WiFi free for everyone – including non-Xfinity Internet subscribers. For a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots, visit www.xfinity.com/wifi.
“The Board of Education believes this substantial investment in Chromebooks is critical to ensuring that all School District students have equitable access to online learning,” said Board President, Joyce Wilkerson. “In this unprecedented time, Board members remain committed to supporting the needs of our students, families and staff.”
Chromebooks are expected to be distributed to students in mid-April.