Sonoma County educators: Internet connectivity is crucial for equity

in News

When the coronavirus forced approximately 70,000 Sonoma County schoolchildren off school campuses and into virtual classrooms in March, the stresses were immediately apparent.

Teachers used to standing in front of a classroom of kids struggled to convey concepts via video conferences. Parents struggled to balance work and home-teaching duties. And students struggled to figure out a new way of learning, removed from their friends and classmates and far from their teachers.

Underlying all of those issues was the need for every student to have access to a steady and consistent internet connection. And not every student has it.

“It is shameful that in a county as prosperous as ours that we have families that struggle to get internet access,” Sonoma Valley Unified School District Superintendent Socorro Shiels said.

Shiels, along with superintendents Diann Kitamura and Amy Jones-Kerr from Santa Rosa City Schools and Roseland, respectively, were panelists Thursday night in a virtual community discussion on equity issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and the move to distance learning. The forum was hosted by Los Cien, a nonprofit Latino leadership group.

Santa Rosa City Schools, the county’s largest district with approximately 15,500 students, has offered Chromebooks to every student in the district, Kitamura said. In addition to 2,500 internet hot spots doled out last spring and this fall, the district gave out an additional 250 in a different network “because of the size of the district, some don’t work in different areas,” she said.

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