Westchester’s Digital Divide for Kids

UPDATE: May 15, 2020
WCA has released the ‘Westchester Parent Survey about Remote Learning’  so we can find out how families are coping with the new (and not so new) challenges that have emerged due to pandemic.  All responses will be kept confidential.  We will share general results with local leaders, educators and partners so that we can support you better during this time. >>   wca4kids.org/parentsurvey

First, we hope you’re doing well and staying healthy. 

WCA has long highlighted the economic divide that separates the Westchester haves from the have nots.  That divide is even starker during our current COVID-19 crisis.  Worrying if students would starve is something that should have never entered the equation when deliberating school closures in Westchester County and New York State.   Lack of access to food and stable housing has now been compounded by Westchester’s digital divide. 

LoHud detailed the struggle that both families and school districts face when transitioning students to distance learning in an article where our executive director, Allison Lake, was quoted. Not every family has a desktop or laptop readily available in their household so their children can participate in distance learning.  For those who do have a working computer, it is often shared with parents who are (hopefully) working from home or other siblings. Fewer still have an accessible computer and reliable internet access that is a must to connect to teachers and peers.  When you think of the bandwidth necessary to support multiple devices and video conferences in a household there is an even greater cost to bear.  

As you can see from our figure on our county’s digital divide, for some school districts such as Scarsdale that has the highest rate of internet connections per household in Westchester, the challenge to get students ready for online learning is minor at best.  For other school districts like Mount Vernon that is the least connected school district, it is formidable.  We can only begin to imagine what a financial and logistical nightmare it was for some Westchester school districts to adapt to this crisis.  That said, we fear that the longer students wait for the ability to participate in school from home, the more likely it becomes that those same students become less likely to learn at all. 

by Limarie Cabrera, Director of Data Finance & Operations, WCA

For more information, email wca@wca4kids.org

 

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