Didn’t I Say That Would Happen?

Last week, I posted about the Digital Divide and how I think that will affect students in Fairfax County. This week, The Washington Post ran an article reporting that very thing is already happening.

Here are some pertinent paragraphs:

But questions remain about whether the least-privileged children will have equal access to required texts. Many don’t have computers at home, or reliable Internet service, and the school system is not giving a laptop or e-reader to every student.

A survey of the schools that piloted online books last year, including Glasgow, indicated that 8 percent of middle school students and 12 percent of high school students do not have a computer at home.

On a recent day at the Woodrow Wilson Library in Falls Church, she signed up for a terminal and dived into her homework — several pages of questions about the Reconstruction period after the Civil War that required visiting a particular Web site. She finished more than half of the questions before the library closed at 6 p.m.

The article links to an earlier article that expressed how difficult it was — even before textbooks were online — to get enough computer access to do homework. It frustrates me that this is the same county that drastically reduced library hours. I have no doubt that a large proportion of middle school and high school students who don’t have a computer at home also may not have a parent at home until after 6:00 — when their local library hours have been cut.

That seems to me an awful large number of students (ten percent of such a huge county is a big number) to make jump through extra hoops just to get their homework done. The article mentioned that some schools are trying to accommodate those without a computer:

At Glasgow, which is in the Alexandria portion of Fairfax County and where about 62?percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, Principal Deirdre Lavery has extended after-school computer lab hours and developed a way for students to check out laptops overnight. Other schools are making similar adjustments.

Now, for me, I’m relieved that even though he has his own computer, my son is a Senior. And AP Social Studies textbooks are not yet online. Aside from all the other issues, I don’t really want him reading from a computer screen that much more in a day. He already wears glasses.

Two thoughts spring to mind, for the whole county and the future, though:

1. It seems to me that Fairfax County decision makers need to think much harder about the kids who aren’t getting a fair shake out of this situation. You’ve just made their lives that much more difficult.

2. Please acknowledge that now the libraries in the county are more important than ever. The library hours and funding should be restored, because now more children than ever before need the library just to do their homework.

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