PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia officials announced Thursday a plan to provide free high-speed internet, digital devices and technology training to more than 30,000 low-income K-12 student households in an emergency effort to ensure digital learning equity across the school district.
City officials say PHLConnectED is being spearheaded by several businesses, schools and civic leaders from around the city, with more partners planned to join the effort.
“Our goal is to identify and implement affordable, simple and reliable digital access solutions for all our residents,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “By focusing on K-12 student households now, we can have an immediate impact in bridging the digital divide, especially to support distance learning for the upcoming school year.”
The program will reportedly deliver high-speed internet to households participating in Comcast’s Internet Essentials, or provide a mobile hotspot for families who are housing-insecure or need a portable option.
Chromebooks, tablets and computers paid for and procured through the School District, charters, and private funds will be distributed to students in need.
“The digital divide is an inequity that presents a significant barrier to our goal of helping all students in every neighborhood reach their full academic potential,” said Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D.
To help supplement the tools given to students and families, the PHLConnectED plan will also seek to provide free skills training and tech support.
“A problem as vast and complex as this one also requires all of us to work together to ensure these students not only get connected but also stay engaged with distance learning throughout this academic year." President of the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation Dalila Wilson-Scott said.
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The urgent need for reliable internet access and capable devices for Philadelphia School District students became further emphasized when officials announced it will hold all-virtual classes until mid-November.
“The pandemic and shift to virtual school have highlighted stark inequities in internet access. This is not acceptable in the 21st century; we can and must do better for Philadelphia students," William Penn Foundation Board Chairperson Janet Haas, M.D. said.
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