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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/21/20

'Students Have Fallen Off The Face Of The Planet'

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Jaisal Noor: Welcome to The Real News. I'm Jaisal Noor. With schools closed due to COVID-19, teaching that was once done in a classroom has been moved online. This transition poses special challenges in districts where public policy has created wealth and opportunity gaps across racial and class lines. Nationally, approximately 4 in 10 low income, African American and Latino households lack broadband access, according to Pew Research, and over 40% of Baltimore City households lack broadband internet access, and one in three didn't have access to a computer at home, a new May 2020 report found. Now joining us to discuss this is Franca [Mollerpaz 00:00:45]. She's a teacher in Baltimore City and a member of the Baltimore Teachers' Union, and Kimberly Vasquez, a student and a member of SOMOS, a student group here in Baltimore. Thank you both for joining us.

Franca Mollerpa": Thank you.

Jaisal Noor: So Kimberly, I wanted to start with you. Talk about how this switch to virtual online learning has impacted you and impacted your classmates.

Kimberly Vasque": This has impacted me because now I find myself having to use the internet much more. And personally, my family has the Internet Essentials package that Comcast provides and the package offers that's 25 megabytes per second with upload speed and the download speed is three megabytes per second, which is honestly really low when it comes to video conferencing. And I always get shut off just because the bandwidth isn't strong enough for my laptop. And I also know that other colleagues have been using hotspot in order to complete homework assignments.

Jaisal Noor: And Franca, So you're a teacher in Baltimore City. How has this impacted what you do on a daily basis?

Franca Mollerpa": Yeah, I think it's really important to know that these were things that were affecting students all the time. So this was always something that was impacting students and you can really see the breakdowns by race. So we knew that White students had greater access to broadband internet, greater than Black and Hispanic students in the city. But at the time, before coronavirus and these shutdowns, I teach at Baltimore city college, I've been teaching for 10 years, and we were able to use our library, the resources we had, to really ensure that students were going to be able to do the work that they needed to do. But now that they don't have the access to that, or even public libraries to be able to use, that means everything's relying on their home infrastructure. And what that looks like is that I'll hold a digital classroom with a handful of students in it.

Students who were incredibly committed to school, always working really hard on their assignments, would never miss a day, have fallen off the face of the planet for now. And I haven't seen them in weeks. And that is really, really scary when you're thinking these are students who really, really want to be engaged and yet where are they? Also, recently the ESAL office released some data around dropouts, especially impacting ESAL students.

Jaisal Noor: And those are students where English as their second language?

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