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CMSD primed to deploy thousands of devices to students to bridge the digital divide

Posted at 4:09 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 19:37:10-04

CLEVELAND — A community-wide effort is underway during this uncertain time to make sure every child gets the same opportunity to learn from home.

With the highest rate of childhood poverty in the nation, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is working to bridge a pretty hefty digital divide.

“When they have to choose between feeding those 10 extra meals a week for every single child or having digital technology, they’re going to choose food. They should," said Eric Gordon, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO.

Next week, CMSD will ask parents to complete a survey to help shed light on who’s lacking internet access.

Gorden said this will be "where families will be able to indicate their technology access using a phone survey where they press one if they have high speed internet, two if they don’t."

Gordon said that will help them figure out where they need to deploy the 12,000 devices they currently have, as well as hone-in on where they need to install hot spots.

“Cuyahoga County is providing 300 hot spots that we’ll be able to distribute, and we’re working with PCs for People to try and get actual equipment for families that need it as well,” said Gordon.

In the meantime, CMSD is pointing parents to Spectrum’s free broadband and WiFi for 60 days for any household with a K-12 student.

Installation fees will be waived.

“Families have to do that directly. There’s really a full community effort to try and make sure our families get connected,” said Gordon.

Out in the suburbs, it's a different story for students and their families.

“We were surprised. Over 98% said that they did have internet access at home,” said Vicki Turner, Berea City Schools Technology Director.

Students in her district may be better connected, but Turner is still on alert.

“We feel that we do have a lot of coverage, but right now we are using the attendance piece to see if anyone fell through the cracks," said Turner.

If a teacher notices students regularly not attending virtual class, they’ll be reaching out.

“I had a gentleman say our computer crashed, so then they’re able to come in and get a Chromebook for their family,” said Turner.

Berea City Schools is prepared to hand out 1,000 Chromebooks for its student body of 3,000.

Teachers and staff are prepared to do whatever it takes.

“Delivering Chromebooks to their house if they need it,” said Turner.

As this learning curve evolves, educators are prepared to stay flexible and focused.

“The district strategy is going to be one where we have a variety of means of staying engaged with our students. It’s really bringing out the best in our educators," said Gordon.