A digital divide is causing issues for CMS students, district works to find solutions

Updated: May. 5, 2020 at 10:58 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - These past few weeks have highlighted the importance of a strong internet connection. Whether it’s to work at home or your kids go to school. There is a growing digital divide in our area and it’s becoming more apparent in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The digital divide is nothing new, but this pandemic magnifies the issue.

In an online meeting through the Harvey B. Gantt Center on Tuesday, officials said 3,000 students within CMS have not had any contact with their teachers. Some of those cases are due to having no internet since the start of the stay at home order.

In our current world, no internet means no class, no school, and no learning.

“If a student can’t get to the library or a community center, then we really understand how critical this access issue is,” said Sonja Gantt, Executive Director of the CMS Foundation.

The Charlotte Digital Inclusion Alliance also added that in Mecklenburg County, 19 percent of homes are without WiFi capabilities.

“However, it’s a very very misleading figure if you consider there are lots of neighborhoods in Charlotte where that number is 50, 60, 70 percent,” said Pat Millen of the Charlotte Digital Inclusion Alliance.

Meaning, there are clusters of “have-not’s” when it comes to the internet. Pat Millen’s job is to work on getting that 19 percent down to zero. For now, he says, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have set up 6,000 mobile hot spots in neighborhoods with six months of prepaid internet services.

“CMS is working hard to try and make sure every kid, every family has access,” said Millen.

The lack of Internet isn’t the only issue some students face at home. Some parents who are trying to fill the role of a teacher at home are struggling to understand the technology students are using. This means if a student needs help, there’s no one there who can walk them through what to do.

“This is not something that they have been trained for. We haven’t been practicing for this moment. You practice for the tornado drill, you practice for the fire drill, but nobody has practiced for this, so it’s very new for them,” said Franchone Bey, an educator.

Teachers who were a part of Tuesday’s meaning are asking parents to breathe and not be too hard on yourself. If you have access to the internet, there are remote learning resources online.

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