California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond seeks $500 million help to close the digital divide

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond says it's time for California companies to step up for California's school kids.

During a virtual news conference this morning, Thurmond called on companies to help the state come up with $500 million to help close the digital divide at this time of distance learning.

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"Right now, we know that immediately some 600,000 students are waiting for a computing device and some 300,000 to 400,000 students have an immediate need for an internet hotspot," Thurmond said.

Thurmond said Internet service providers have been providing low cost internet and below market cost laptops to students. While Thurmond said there has been progress, they are going to keep asking for more help for students in underserved communities..

Thurmond said he will providing guidelines in early June for schools to reopen. As for when schools will reopen their classrooms, Thurmond said that's up to the districts. Local district leaders can decide how to implement the guidelines. Thurmond says he's hearing most districts plan to reopen for in-person instruction at their usual time in late August or early September.

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The State Superintendent said he will also be taking input from teachers on virtual learning and how to safely reopen schools at a focus group later this week.

In an interview with ABC7 News' Liz Kreutz Monday, Thurmond said "there's no one size fits all" when it comes to school reopening.

That being said, there are a few things we can expect pretty much across the board. For starters, students and staff will be required to maintain physical distance and probably wear face masks. There may also be some required temperature taking of students and teachers, Thurmond said. He said it's not yet decided whether students or staff will need to be tested for the virus before returning to school campuses.

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We also know that students will probably only be allowed back into the classroom in smaller numbers, but there are a few ways school districts may choose to accomplish that. Some districts are planning to bring students back on campus every day of the week, while also having online learning available simultaneously for any students or parents who request it. Other schools are planning to split students into morning and afternoon sessions. A third option is splitting students into cohorts; one group would attend in-person classes Mondays and Wednesdays, while the other would attend Tuesdays and Thursdays. Everyone would do distance learning on Fridays.

For high school students who have six or more periods a day with different teachers, may follow a different learning model. They may be broken into smaller, stable groups who stay in the same classroom all day while teachers cycles in and out.

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