With thousands of students in San Diego County doing distance learning during the pandemic, the digital divide has never been more apparent.
According to the San Diego County Office of Education, nearly 100,000 students in the county, or one-fifth of public school students, lack access to the internet at home or connectivity. The majority live in the South Bay or remote rural areas.
Wendy Barrientos’ fourth-grade son has been doing distance learning since March while figuring out ways to get access to the internet. They live in a mobile home park in San Ysidro, where there is no internet coverage. At first, Barrientos said her son used her cell phone to get access, but it was slow and spotty. Then he used a friend’s internet but sat outside the house and had to go back later to do homework assignments.
Now, he has a hot spot. The County Office of Education, which has been working with Verizon, AT&T, and Cox to get free or low-cost internet access, is giving 1,050 hot spots to families in San Ysidro Elementary School District.
“It’s working better, my son is inside, he’s not outside,” said Barrientos. “He’s paying more attention, he’s happier too.”
The County Office of Education said most of the students who lack internet access are the most vulnerable, including foster care, homeless and special education students. Five hundred Native American students from our most rural and remote districts need devices. The need for mobile devices and connectivity services is likely to exceed $15 million, according to the County Office of Education.
“I feel worried for them because I know how it feels when your child doesn’t have the same opportunity as everybody else," Barrientos said.