As schools closed across the nation amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, students transitioned to online learning. For kids and teenagers who don’t have reliable internet access at home or even a computer, however, keeping up with school can be a serious hardship. That’s been the case in Detroit, where the majority of students have struggled to reach teachers over video chat or use all the virtual resources, as reported by Detroit Free Press. The solution? A “Connected Futures” program is working to get every single public school student not only a tablet but high-speed internet access before June.
“We have risen to the challenge of this pandemic and found a way to forge something positive for our children,” said the mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, as reported by local outlet Click On Detroit. “This will be a defining moment of pride in Detroit for many, many years.”
How does this work? For the first six months of the program, internet connectivity will be covered by the program in full. After that, the school district will cover it. District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti estimates that $17 million of the fund will go toward buying the tablets, and an additional $6 million will cover the internet. The students, grades K through 12, will own the tablets, according to Winnipeg Free Press.
To accomplish all of this, the program started fundraising just three weeks ago. Since then, they’ve raised $23 million. The program includes the Detroit Public Schools Community District as well as the Kellogg and Skillman Foundations, General Motors, Quicken Loans, and DTE Energy.
This is truly fantastic, and also a reminder that the internet should be considered a public utility, not a private service. Relatedly, as schools have closed, other less discussed issues have finally gotten some mainstream media attention. For example, some states (and local communities) have stepped up to help get free breakfast and lunches to kids who qualify, as well as aiding food banks struggling to meet heightened demand. Taking care of the most vulnerable among us is one of the very basic tenets of what our government should do, especially during a global pandemic.
Here’s some quick local coverage, too.