Monday, March 14, 2016

EDUCATION - WiFi on Wheels

"Wi-Fi on wheels leaves no child offline" PBS NewsHour 3/7/2016


SUMMARY:  The digital divide and lack of reliable Internet access at home can put low-income and rural students at a real disadvantage.  So when superintendent Darryl Adams took over one of the poorest school districts in the nation, he made it a top priority to help his students get online 24/7.  Special correspondent David Nazar of PBS SoCal reports with PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Tonight, an innovative solution to bridging the digital divide for students.

Too frequently, kids and their parents in rural low-income communities don't have access to the Internet and high-quality learning technologies.  But, in California, a unique project is providing free home access to the Web in one of the nation's poorest districts.

Much of the footage for this story was shot by teenagers who are part of our Student Reporting Labs network, in collaboration with PBS SoCal in Southern California.

The correspondent is David Nazar.

DAVID NAZAR (NewsHour):  Thirty minutes west of the wealthy suburbs of Palm Springs is a desert oasis best known its annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

But behind the parties and concerts stretches a vast and isolated landscape, home to the second poorest school district in the country, where most families live below the poverty line and struggle just to pay the rent.

DARRYL ADAMS, Superintendent, Coachella Valley Unified School District:  We have some of the poorest of the poor in our country, very economically challenged, and 100 percent of our students are on free and reduced lunch.  Some of them living at trailer home parks that some have been condemned recently, or some in railroad, abandoned railroad cars.  It's just unbelievable, some of the challenges they face.

DAVID NAZAR:  Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent Darryl Adams believes the right use of technology is critical for the families in this area, like Norma Olivas and her daughter, Anisa Perez.

NORMA OLIVAS, Anisa's Mother:  I do see students sometimes struggling, and, right now, sometimes, some of the kids struggling to get school, to do certain things.  And I wouldn't want my daughter to go through any that.  I wouldn't want her to be a dropout.

DAVID NAZAR:  When Adams took the job in 2011, the graduation rate was 70 percent, according to the district.  One of his key initiatives was to get every student an iPad and WiFi service, but he knew it would be challenge.

DARRYL ADAMS:  We have 1,250 square miles to cover, larger than the state of Rhode Island.  So, when we out there were spots in every which way, students weren't connected, we said, well, how can we get them connected?

And so one of the ways, we said, look, we got 100 buses.  Let's put WiFi routers on those buses.  And let's park them where the need is.

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