Brent Johnson | July 17, 2020 | NJ Advance Media |
Officials call it a longstanding dilemma that the coronavirus exposed. Though New Jersey schools were ordered closed and students were forced to learn remotely because of the pandemic, tens of thousands of young residents — many from low-income households — didn‘t have a device or internet access at home to participate in online classes.
Now, the Garden State is seeking to bridge this so-called digital divide.
Gov. Phil Murphy and state lawmakers on Thursday announced a $115 million plan to make sure all New Jersey students have online access and devices to learn at home, using a mixture federal funds, philanthropic donations, and state coronavirus relief money.
Officials say the need is immediate, noting that even if many schools do physically reopen this fall, some will likely offer a hybrid of in-person and remote classes, while other students may continue to learn from home completely.
Officials say the initiative will also ensure students have access to this technology even when the pandemic is over.
“We know that in many communities, the majority of students and educators were able to virtually connect every day,” Murphy said during a public event in which officials unveiled the plan at Madison Avenue School in Irvington. “But when it comes to educating our kids, I think we can all agree that words like ‘many’ and ‘most’ are simply not good enough.”
Murphy said nearly half of the $115 million price tag to close the gap will be covered through federal funds already set aside for school districts.
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