April 3, 2020

Extended school closures expose digital divide among Arizona families

A discussion with schools chief Kathy Hoffman about the challenges students face.

Arizona’s stay-at-home order followed a decision to extend distance learning through the rest of an academic year to prevent the coronavirus from spreading on campuses. In doing so, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman acknowledged in a press conference that online instruction disadvantages a number of families because they do not have access to computers or reliable internet connections. Hoffman joined Arizona 360 to discuss how Arizona plans to address those challenges.

“This will be a big wake-up call for our state to really recognize and have data on the digital divide and the access to technology,” Hoffman said.

In the short-term, Hoffman said her office provided recommendations to schools about how they can use federal funds to purchase supplies. However, she said much of the equipment is on backorder because so many other agencies and companies are also transitioning to telework. She has asked the business community if it can help by donating or loaning the technology to schools.

“One business leader suggested, ‘What if we can refurbish old laptops and donate those to schools?” Hoffman said. “We’re looking for those types of creative solutions, but this is going to be a long-term issue.”

Hoffman recommends families and educators visit her office’s website to stay up to date about available resources.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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