Tackling the Digital Divide: 5K Students Statewide Have Yet to Log On

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Local school districts along with state leaders are working to improve the state's digital divide. Back in March, there were more than 125,000 students who were not logging on, but that number has dwindled to a little more than 5,000. Yet, school and lawmakers believe more works needs to be done.

State Sen. Douglas McCrory is the co-chair of the legislature's Education Committee and said that connectivity is one factor for the digital truancy.

"Although students may have a laptop, they still need to be connected to an internet provider," said McCroy. "What you might be finding is a number of students who live in these communities do not have a connection with an internet provider."

WeekTotal EnrollmentTotal Fully RemoteTotal Fully Remote Who Are Disconnected
Aug. 31 - Sept. 4*191,64069,004 (36%)5,486 (8%)
Sept. 8 - Sept. 11509,909161,643 (31.7%)7,441 (4.6%)
Setp. 14 - Sept. 18514,879161,287 (31.3%)7,149 (4.4%)
Sept. 21- Sept. 25514,994161,886 (31.6%)6,071 (3.7%
Sept. 28 - Oct. 2514,252163,648 (31.8%)5,992 (3.7%)
Oct. 5 - Oct. 9513,853168,947 (32.9%)5.165 (3.1%)
*Note than 108 of the 197 school districts and 71 of the 89 APSEP's were operational during the first week

One reason for the decrease is linked back to the state's Everybody Learns Initiative, which consisted of a $43.5 million investment to close the digital divide in school districts.

"They need supervision constantly knowing what they have to do and what teachers assign on a daily basis," said Denisa Nelson, a parent of a student inside New Britain Public Schools. "It's almost like being a teacher at home but supervising them throughout the process and helping them along the way."

McCrory said that that there are other reasons for the drop in virtual attendance.

"COVID has had a significant impact in these student's lives, some of them have seen their parents lose their jobs and have seen some of their parents and grandparents lose their life," he said. "As a result, many of them have had to step up and help their family and be the breadwinners."

Kristin Cahill lives in Torrington and has been trying to manage juggling her job and to keep track of her son Joshua's assignments.

"We have been working to find a balance between working all day and making sure the assignments are done on time and coordinating with his teacher," said Cahill. "There are a lot of kids and a lot of demands that need to be met so we are working to try and find a happy medium."

Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres Rodriguez said the district is committed to offering the necessary resources for students to succeed.

"For Hartford public schools, we know that when we do outreach to families, it includes multiple steps that go beyond phone calls and emails," said Dr. Torres-Rodriguez. "It could be a housing and security issue, perhaps they need mental health support, we don't want to lead with this notion that our students are not wanting to learn. There are other issues that are potentially impacting a student and their families.

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