California 'racing against the clock' to close digital divide before school starts, state superintendent says

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- After Gov. Gavin Newsom announced schools might not be able to reopen on time in most of California, parents everywhere are wondering what distance learning will look like in the fall.

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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond held a virtual press conference Thursday with the state's Closing the Digital Divide Task Force.

Thurmond's press conference comes about a week after Newsom announced schools that are on the state watch list won't be able to reopen for in-person instruction. As of Thursday, 35 of California's 58 counties are on the list.

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When schools closed abruptly due to the coronavirus in March, many kids weren't able to continue learning online due to a lack of computer, internet or stable home environment.

With more distance learning on the horizon for most of California's school-aged children, the state is working to organize resources and promote cross-district collaboration.

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"We know most school districts are going to open in distance learning," said Thurmond. "That means we have to really move quickly to make a dent in the number of folks without a computing device or a hot spot."

"We know that school opens in three weeks so we know we're racing against the clock," he added.

The state has allocated an additional $5.3 billion in funding to purchase computers, tablets and other resources for students in need. School districts need to apply for a portion of the funds.

"Every school is going to get some funds," said Ben Chida of the governor's office, but most of the funding will be prioritized for schools with a high percentage of special education, homeless or English learning students.

Thurmond said that going forward only lawmakers and industry leaders who can provide a specific commitment to California's students will be allowed on the task force.

Two leaders from Intel spoke about how they're using technology to help track Los Angeles students' attendance and engagement during online learning, a method that may be rolled out to other districts.

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