Photo / Victoria Gasca
The switch to online-only learning during spring of last year added a new variable to the school lives of students and teachers: their Internet at home. As of now, if a student does not have access to adequate Internet, it becomes a major obstacle to their learning. However, some families cannot afford Internet access, and in some cases what they can afford may be inadequate. It is the responsibility of the school district to ensure students have Internet access during distance learning.
Students whose families cannot afford Internet access have been given options, one of which being Sprint’s 1Million Project. 1,350 Wi-Fi hotspots were provided to EPISD students. The students receiving these devices were selected through the free and reduced-price lunch program. A survey was used to decide if students within the program qualified for the 1Million Project. This is a good start, although some students who do not have proper Internet access could be skipped over via this method.
Another method used to provide Internet access for those who cannot afford it is free 60-day service provided by Spectrum and AT&T to qualifying families. Unfortunately, there are more apparent flaws with this method. The most obvious flaw is that this plan offers free service for only 60 days (about two months). There are about 180 days (about six months) of instruction in a school year, meaning that these plans only cover 1/3 of the year. A student receiving the free access will still be without it most of the year, rendering them unable to attend classes or do work.
It is also important to discuss the fact that, just because a someone has Internet access, it does not mean that it is adequate. Online classes at Coronado have typically been plagued by technical difficulties. On occasion, a teacher may be disconnected from their class, handing over control to a random student who could simply end the class if they see fit. Additionally, students can also be disconnected without warning, which may cause them to miss vital instruction.
It is not possible for the district to prevent all Internet problems from occurring. Even so, EPISD is obligated to try its best when it comes to providing Internet access in these tough times. It is an injustice to underprivileged students to deny them access to education based on a faulty or absent Internet connection. The burden of providing these students with reliable Internet very much is on EPISD’s shoulders.