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Funding distance learning technology in Santa Clara County school districts

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) – As distance learning looms for thousands of students, so does the digital divide with the lack of an internet connection and other digital devices.

Last week, the city of San Jose announced it would spend $8.2 million to help bridge the digital divide in under-connected communities.  

On Monday, Santa Clara County said it was putting up another 7 million.  

Together, the funding will digitally outfit some 15,000 students in Franklin-McKinley and other underserved school districts in San Jose’s east side.

The marquis at Franklin Elementary welcomes kids back to school from a distance.  

Until now, an estimated 15,000 students in this and other Santa Clara County school districts lack the devices to learn from a distance.  

Another 9,000 have no internet access.  

Students who do not have access to the internet or own computers are being left out of online opportunities and are in danger of falling behind.  

The county will spend $7.1 million to bring technology to disadvantaged neighborhoods says County Supervisor Dave Cortese, who proposed the funding.

“The technology has changed and while it has changed, it has now left gaps once again at a time where we can’t afford those and we don’t have the luxury of waiting,” Cortese said.

Earlier, the city of San Jose and AT&T announced a partnership to install 11,000 high-end hotspots within the city.  

The city council approved $8.2 million for digital infrastructure and digital devices for an additional 11,000 students.  

“It is beholding upon us to make sure that we give them every tool possible, every tool necessary, every resource that is in our grasp to make sure that we help them catch up and we help them thrive in this ares,” Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco said.

Communities lacking internet access are also among those hardest hit by the coronavirus.  

It isn’t just about distance learning but rather about connectivity to health care and just about everything else, says Franklin-McKinley Board Vice President Maimona Afzal.

“Accessing CalWorks programs, meals, telehealth, therapy, COVID-19 testing or learning are all needed to be able to access the internet,” Afzal said.

Now, it’s hope to having internet access at home will put a stop to kids doing their homework in the parking lot of fast food restaurants and other places that they’ve been relying on free WiFi.

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