For remote learning, California asks public to donate 150,000 devices

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In a “virtual town hall meeting” on Tuesday, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond asked the public to donate cash or devices so students can continue their educations from home during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The request comes days after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on April 1 that Google had donated 4,000 Chromebooks and 100,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to support K-12 distance learning in California. While Thurmond said the state appreciated the support of Google and other technology companies that have donated devices, he said the state needs even more devices.

There are about 6 million students spread across 1,000 school districts in California, and Thurmond said the state has set a goal of gathering an additional 150,000 devices.

“Some of our students have access to devices and internet, but many of them don’t and so we know we have to keep working to ensure we close these digital divides that have existed in some cases for decades,” Thurmond said. “It is a opportunity to help change a lifetime — a tax-deductible opportunity.”

He invited those interested in donating to email donatetech@cde.ca.gov.

In addition to gathering donations, the California Department of Education has also been taking steps to ensure that educators, parents and students are educated about how to optimize distance learning by producing at least two webinars each week. The first webinars contained information on distance learning for special education students and English language learners.

Thurmond said the state is also focused on ensuring parents have adequate access to child care and that students who rely on school meals can still get them during the quarantine. 

High-school graduation requirements are being altered in California to accommodate limitations of distance learning as schools allow AP exams to be taken home, he said.

Higher education institutions are also relaxing their entrance requirements, he said. California universities are, for example, suspending the need for students to submit SAT scores for admission and universities are also accepting flexible new pass/no-pass grading schemes adopted by some high schools.

“We are experiencing an uncharted-territory-like pandemic, a worldwide health crisis,” Thurmond said. “This is a challenge unlike we’ve ever faced before, but as it relates to the education of California students, we must ensure that all of our students get a great education.”

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