By Lisa Fernandez | KTVU FOX 2
OAKLAND, Calif. - With $12.5 million in Twitter and other tech donations, the Oakland Unified School District announced that 25,000 Chromebooks should make it into the hands of students in late August, weeks after school starts
In a news release, OUSD said the order is still on track for delivery within the first two weeks in August, but students won't be able to get them until later in the month. School is set to start on Aug. 10. Because of coronavirus, schools in at least half of the state that are on a watchlist must resume classes online, not in person.
Oakland is one of those school districts, which also has one of the biggest digital divides in the region between students who own computers and have access to WiFi, and those who do not.
"While we cannot get the new computers into the hands of students in time for the start of the school year, in the spring, OUSD distributed 18,000 school-based computers to students on loan," the district said. "While it was not enough, it did provide access for most students in need as we were thrust into distance learning."
OUSD students will continue to use those computers until those who qualify can get a new Chromebook. OUSD has bought 5,000 temporary devices as additional “loaners.”
Most of the new devices are expected to be distributed in late August and September, with students returning loaned devices upon receiving the new laptops, bought with donations from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Zynga founder Mark Pincus.
District officials also said that they have been in negotiations with various internet providers to purchase uncapped internet plans, with no data limits, to ensure that students who currently have no internet access at home can access distance learning. At a meeting this summer, administrators said that about half the students don't have proper WiFi setups at home.
To make sure that no one falls behind, all families with a student attending an Oakland public school will be asked to complete a Tech Check survey to provide updated information on students’ access to technology at home.
If families don't have the internet at home, the district said it will provide alternate methods for completing the survey, such as on paper, and in person.
The district asks that families who are able to buy Chromebooks to purchase them now, so if the schools fall short at the beginning of the school year, the district can dedicate its loaner inventory to students with higher needs.
Students in other districts in California have tech needs, too. State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said Wednesday said that his department has already begun dispersing the $5.3 billion from the governor's office to local school districts, encouraging them to spend the money on technology.
To date, Thurmond said that 700,000 public school students still don't have computers and 300,000 don't have proper hot spots -- situations that could be theoretically remedied with some of that state money.
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED: Learn more about #OaklandUndivided at www.oaklandedfund.org/digitaldivide
If you want to donate a computer or hotspot, contact Seth@techexchange.org.
If you want to make a donation or discuss a potential financial contribution, contact: David Silver, Mayor’s Office of Education at Dsilver@oaklandca.gov; Jonathan Osler, Oakland Public Education Fund at email@example.com or Curtiss Sarikey, Oakland Unified School District at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public libraries continuing to offer support to those learning from home with online resources, recommendations and more
Oakland, CA -- The Oakland Public Library (OPL) is here to support Oakland school children and families forced to learn from home during the coronavirus pandemic. In a city where an estimated one-third of students lack access to the internet at home, bridging the digital divide is paramount.
That’s why, this week, OPL is donating 500 Wi-Fi hotspots to the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) to help eliminate the gap. The hotspots will be delivered to non-profit partner Tech Exchange, which will work with OUSD to divide the hotspots equitably throughout the district. Teachers and administrators can reach out to OUSD Technology Services Lead Kyleigh Nevis (Kyleigh.email@example.com) for questions about how hotspots will be allocated.
The hotspots are funded by the Library and the City of Oakland’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. The hotspots will be available to use for 12 months.
OPL, which expanded Wi-Fi hotspot checkouts to every location in January, learned of the inadequate internet access for families during an OUSD Town Hall in late March. Supervising Librarian Derrick DeMay reached out to OPL’s hotspot provider, T-Mobile, to inquire about the availability of the additional equipment.
“It was really through our existing relationship with T-Mobile that we were able to identify the available stock. The company was getting inundated with similar requests and fast-dwindling supplies,” said DeMay. “They basically set aside some hotspots just for Oakland and we confirmed the following day. We’re glad we were able to find them and to contribute what we can.”
In addition to donating hotspots, OPL continues to offer support for those learning away from the classroom:
Tutor.com: On April 1, OPL unveiled access to tutor.com, an online service providing live and free one-on-one tutoring in a variety of subjects. Live one-on-one assistance is available every day from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Tutoring in Spanish with bilingual tutors is also available. All one needs is an OPL library card, computer, smartphone or tablet with internet access.
How to Learn at Home: A guide for parents and caregivers to provide a learning framework for newly-minted homeschoolers. Kids learn when they are interested and having fun.
Screen Free Activities: Sheltering in place can lead to a lot of screen time. Don’t feel guilty about that; these are difficult times and parents need to do what they need to do. When you’re ready to cut down on screens for a bit, visit this page for some recommendations.
Online Programs for Kids: Our branches might be closed, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t have fun together. Join OPL librarians on Facebook (www.facebook.com/oaklibrary) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/oaklandpubliclibrary) every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday for virtual storytimes, sing-a-longs, and more!
Although physical branches are closed, Oaklanders can still sign up for a library card online, as well as ask questions about their accounts through firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone messages can be left at 510-238-3134 and a staff person will get back to the patron within 48 hours.