Online learning in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools exposes the digital divide

Updated: Mar. 31, 2020 at 8:46 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Some Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) parents are getting frustrated doing online learning. They claim there is a lack of communication between CMS and households.

Lucille Puckett is teaching her three grandchildren. All her grandchildren attend a high-poverty school. She has talked to other parents who are also concerned about the process.

“Parents are talking about the Wi-Fi,” Puckett said. “Not having the accessibility or sometimes it be over loading because of so many people using the internet at the time or not having the accessibility to a Chromebook.”

Students use Chromebooks to participate in online learning. Some students have them and some do not. Puckett’s grandchild has one but can’t use it.

“It had a note on the top of it,” Puckett said. “That said it was broken.”

The grandmother is waiting to hear how she can get another Chromebook for her grandchild.

CMS is still looking to the state for more guidance concerning how to proceed with remote learning and to determine if assignments will be graded.

Puckett says because of this - some frustrated parents are just giving up.

“If my child is not being graded on these assignments, then why am I trying to go to work put food on the table, pay these bills and then come home and help them with work that’s not even being graded - what’s the purpose of doing it?,” Puckett said.

Dee Rankin is also a CMS parent and a member of CMS’ equity committee. He says this online learning has really put a spotlight on the haves and have nots in the school district when it comes to having the resources needed to be successful.

“I would love to get back to the work of equity.” CMS Equity Committee Member Dee Rankin said.

Due to COVID-19, CMS suspended Equity Committee meetings, but Rankin wrote a letter to CMS expressing his concerns.

He believes the subcommittees can continue to meet so they can hammer out these equity issues so the committee won’t get behind and figure out a plan just in case schools have to close.

Rankin believes online learning should happen more often throughout the district even when this pandemic is over. He believes it will teach the district a lesson.

“If this practice takes place,” Rankin said. “Then we’ll know what neighborhoods may need access points - who needs the mobile hot-spots - who are the parents and teachers who need some extra training on virtual learning.”

CMS says 6,000 mobile hot-spots are on the way to help students who are in need of connectivity.

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