Learning Without Laptops

Did the DOE prepare students for virtual classes?

03 May 2020 | 07:08

As students have been home virtually learning for nearly two months because of COVID-19, the question remains: were they prepared?

Nearly 20,000 school children are still without devices, and some even had visits from the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) because their schools saw they weren’t signing into class each day. In those cases, the kids simply did not have a laptop or device to use.

Council Members Ben Kallos and Mark Levine, who serve on the education committee, are not pleased with this news and feel students are being given the short end of the stick.

“I’m angry that the city spent hundreds of millions of dollars and there’s still 19,000 kids waiting more than a month to get an iPad so they can keep up with their peers,” Kallos said.

The city is failing its children and this is quite upsetting, Kallos stated. When children are suspended or sick for a week, it is tough to makeup the homework or assignments, now imagine if those things happened for six weeks.

Shuttered at home, parents are relying on the DOE to help get their kids through this crisis. He pointed out that people from all over the country all pitching in to help New Yorkers affected by COVID, so he is surprised students were not prepared to learn virtually.

“The DOE is failing so many kids and their families,” Kallos commented. “The pandemic has shown if there’s a will, there’s a way.”

According to Kallos, this crisis should give the city a glimpse of what learning really is. Everything today is digital and many school districts outside of NYC use Chromebooks, iPads or laptops year round.

The digital divide needs to end. Whether they are in the UWS, UES, Harlem or the Bronx, every child should have equal access to a device, he stressed.

In his council district, he allocates a million a year for laptops in schools because he understands how important technology is in education.

“Imagine if every kid had a laptop and a digital textbook,” he explained. “I think the pandemic has given us a chance to examine what our society looks like.”

Kallos explained that there are still 200,000 iPads that have not been delivered. With $200 million, the schools should have bought laptops or Chromebooks and used the remaining money to buy broadband for those families that need it.

“We could do this for every single student,” Kallos said. “I have wanted every student in city schools to get a laptop with broadband and eliminate the digital divide for as long as I’ve been an elected official.”

Falling Behind

Levine, like Kallos, feels the city has failed the children. After this crisis ends, the DOE and the administration need to take a hard look at education in the city, he said.

According to Levine, it is unacceptable that after nearly two months of virtual learning thousands of children still don’t have devices.

“I am deeply disturbed by the digital divide that was exposed by this crisis and the systemic lack of preparedness,” Levine said.

He noted the lack of untimely distribution of laptops not only affects the kids, but parents as well. This puts even more stress on moms and dads, many of whom are laid off, furloughed, sick or working from home.

“Many are now thrust essentially into home schooling,” Levine said. “I’m very worried that kids are going to fall behind.”

Looking to the future, there should be enough laptops or devices in every school for every student, he said.

“I’m heartbroken that there’s a loss of learning that so many in the city will experience,” Levine said.

Parents can apply for iPads for their children through the DOE: https://coronavirus.schools.nyc/RemoteLearningDevices.

“Imagine if every kid had a laptop and a digital textbook ... the pandemic has given us a chance to examine what our society looks like.” Council Member Ben Kallos
“I am deeply disturbed by the digital divide that was exposed by this crisis and the systemic lack of preparedness.” Council Member Mark Levine