After recently visiting two schools in his district, Councilman Rafael Salamanca discovered that the digital divide still exists in the south Bronx.
On Oct. 14, he went to his alma mater, C.S. 150 at 920 E. 167th St. and was impressed with how clean the facility was and how temperatures were taken before coming in. However, he was told that 20 percent of the kids in attendance do not have laptops.
Instead, families come to the school each week and pick up a package of work. The dilemma is that some of these parents are busy at their jobs while others lack educational skills and face language barriers.
“In essence, the kids are teaching themselves,” the councilman said.
THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!
— Rafael Salamanca, Jr (@Salamancajr80) October 14, 2020
This piqued his curiosity to see how things are at other schools. On Oct. 20, he ventured to P.S. 75 at 984 Faile St. and found that there are 123 children waiting for devices.
Salamanca explained that this likely means the students did not have laptops when remote learning began in March. The councilman “gave the DOE a small pass for students not having devices from March to June” because it was such a new process, but right now it’s unacceptable.
“They had enough time to plan for this accordingly,” he stressed. “I view this as the Black and brown community being ignored. I’m going to try to reach out to as many schools as possible. The ultimate goal here is to identify the problem.”
According to Salamanca, he did not understand why it has taken the Department of Education seven months to get kids laptops. He emphasized that the DOE must step up to the plate and be accountable for their actions.
Furthermore, every child should have a device, every year, not just during a pandemic, he said. With a $34 billion budget, he is confused why it has taken the DOE so long to get students laptops.
“It is our job as education leaders make sure poor communities have the technology needed to learn,” he said.
Salamanca, a member of the Council Education Committee, met with Chancellor Richard Carranza and questioned him about the lack of laptops.
— Rafael Salamanca, Jr (@Salamancajr80) October 20, 2020
Department of Education Spokesman Sarah Casasnovas said the DOE purchased an additional 100,000 iPads to be distributed over the fall, with priority given to families in temporary housing and those without internet access at home.
She noted that there is a national device shortage as the global supply chain has not been able to keep up with the increased demand.
“We have delivered 477 iPads to C.S. 150 so far and are working directly with the school to confirm any additional device needs,” Cassanovas said. “We are committed to equipping our students with the resources they need to participate in remote learning and will distribute an additional 100,000 iPads accordingly over the fall based on need.”