CPS releases plans to address digital divide as students, parents prepare for e-learning

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Many parents and teachers are relieved that CPS students will be starting the school year with remote learning this year. However, some are worried that e-learning could present major challenges for students with fewer resources like no laptops or slower internet speeds.

According to many educators, students who have working laptops, speakers, headphones and high-internet speeds tend to have a better learning experience.

Unfortunately, the reality is that many students within the Chicago Public Schools District don't have these items and they've struggled for quite some time.

As CPS gears up to start remote learning, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said it's imperative that all students are digitally connected and have all the tools and devices they need to succeed this school year.

"We're absolutely concerned about the inability of CPS to be transparent with where the resources are going to make remote learning as strong as possible," Davis Gates said. "We know that our district is over 80% free and reduced lunch, that we deal with an extraordinary amount of poverty inside of our school communities.Those differences, a tale of two cities if you will, were front and center last spring."

CPS said that it has been very transparent about spending related to technology and devices.

A breakdown of the proposed 2020-2021 fiscal year budget shows CPS plans to send a total of $25.2 million on technology that will include things like Chromebooks, laptops, iPads and internet hot spots.

CPS said it also plans to spend about $4.8 million on education materials like AP exams, printing, remote learning packets and literacy supplies.

The district already distributed 128,000 computing devices last spring and said it will distribute an additional 36,000 devices this upcoming school year.

CPS said it is currently determining how many additional devices are needed and will ensure that any student in need of a device has access to one so that its most vulnerable students have equitable opportunities to learn and grow during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district released a statement to parents saying it is committed to improving the remote learning experience this school year.

"Chicago Public Schools is acting on parent feedback to offer an improved remote learning experience for all students when the school year begins. The district will ensure any student in need of a device has access to one, and meals at hundreds of sites across the city will continue to be served. The city and district will also be working to connect families with services and evaluating potential childcare options."

Parents can find the full report on the breakdown of CPS spending plans for the upcoming school year, here.

For more information on Chicago Connected, click here.
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