Giving Compass' Take:

• As remote learning in the fall draws closer, Linda Jacobson at The 74 discusses the need for increased funding in order to reduce gaps in efforts to get students online.

• Despite innovations to get students online and ready for school in the fall, why is it so difficult to get all students access to internet? How does this impact marginalized students more markedly? How can increased funding help?

• Locate resources that can help get students online in communities across the U.S.

Distance learning starts in two weeks in Washington’s Central Kitsap School District, and Debbie Bryan, director of information services and technology, still isn’t sure how she’s going to connect students in some of the district’s more remote areas to the internet.

“We have a big pocket of our area where the personal hotspot or the bus hotspot is not going to do us justice,” Bryan said, noting the more wooded and hilly areas along the Hood Canal, where there’s less cable for high-speed connections. “Those folks down there are so underserved.”

Rolling Wi-Fi-enabled school buses into neighborhoods and distributing personal hotspots to families were part of districts’ rapid response to getting families online once schools closed in the spring. But such programs have limitations and don’t always provide students the high-speed connections they need for Zoom classes and completing assignments — especially if there are multiple students in the home.

While the problem permeates much of rural America, the lack of broadband can even be an issue for students living in tech hubs.

Across the country in California’s Santa Clara County, Lorena Chavez is working as part of a coalition to expand free community Wi-Fi. The effort began six years ago, but in that time, the attendance area for only one of seven high-need school communities was connected. A second community was connected this month, and a third should be hooked up by December.

Recent data shows that almost 17 million U.S. students still lack home internet access, especially students of color. With many districts remaining remote — and some researchers estimating that pandemic-related learning loss will widen gaps for students this fall — it’s not just a “homework gap.” It’s a schoolwork, study, extracurricular activities, and postsecondary preparation gap.

Read the full article about getting students online by Linda Jacobson at The 74.