California school districts are required to provide both devices and a high-speed internet connection to any student learning from home, but between 300,000 and 1 million remain disconnected, EdSource reports. A backlog of computer orders and weak broadband infrastructure in remote areas are contributing factors.

At a state assembly education committee hearing Wednesday, California education leaders, teachers, and lawmakers discussed how to close the digital divide. Though most households have enough broadband to handle some video calls, many family networks don't have the strength for multiple students to be connected at once.

As pandemic-induced school closures drag on, the digital divide continues to drive 16.9 million students into the homework gap. Additionally, 36% of those living in rural locations lack connectivity. Broken down by race, the homework gap impacts 34% of American Indians/Alaska Natives, 31% of Blacks, 31% of Latinos, 21% of Whites and 12% of Asian students.

Attention to the issue, however, has increased significantly. With most of the nation's schools now connected to high-speed broadband, the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway has turned its attention to the homework gap through the organization DigitalBridge K-12. COVID-19 school closures also put the issue on lawmakers’ radars, with some now indicating they are willing to spend billions of dollars to bridge the gap.

The sudden shift to online learning caught most districts off guard. Though many were gearing up to provide older students with 1:1 technology, it quickly became necessary to provide every student with a device. When schools closed last spring, the Austin Independent School District in Texas immediately purchased 24,000 iPads and 6,000 Chromebooks. It also distributed 15,000 Chromebooks the district already owned. A CoSN survey conducted just prior to the pandemic indicated 49% of responding districts had 1:1 technology.

Read the full article about connectivity gap by Shawna De La Rosa at Education Dive.