As the beginning of the school year rolled around, the question of if students and teachers should return to in-person classes was on everyone’s mind. It soon became clear that virtual classrooms would be the go-to for a many school districts, whether it be full or part-time, the risk of potential COVID-19 spread is too high. The decision was made out of concern for the well-being of the communities that these school districts serve, even though they came with consequences. As a result, Digital Divide has now reared its ugly head, causing millions of students to fall behind in their academic progress due to lack of access to technology.
The Homework Gap that existed previous to COVID-19 is only growing. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, 16.9 million children are logged out of school because their families lack the home internet connection conducive to online learning. Along with that, 7.3 million children in the United States do not have a laptop, tablet, or desktop in their home. These figures disproportionately impact children in low-income families, students of color, and those in rural communities. Making virtual school manageable for every child in the United States is a heavy task, full of obstacles, but Learning Extension Centers are a start.
A Learning Extension Center, or an LEC, is the conversion of local churches, community centers and nonprofit organizations into a safe, socially distant environment where children can come to learn. The LEC’s will vary in times and locations, but will be offered on weekdays for those who need supervision and guidance. These sites will be fully staffed with individuals equipped to assist with virtual homework and classrooms, and will be available for emotional and educational support for children. Not only are LEC’s beneficial for families without sufficient resources, they bring peace of mind to working parents who are unable to be home to guide their children through their school day. The goal is to provide an alternative solution for these families, and create a safe space with support and supervision.
In these unprecedented times, maintaining the basic human right of education is more important than ever. As the Digital Divide grows, and the pandemic continues to create rifts throughout society, the declining access to technology and internet is a problem that needs a solution before the impacts in future generations are permanent. Learning Extension Centers are a solution to support the educational development of the communities throughout the United States and aid the success of the coming ages.