NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)—As learning has moved online as a result of COVID-19, the reliance on internet-based education is shining a light on a digital divide in New Haven

Mayor Justin Elicker said, “all of a sudden we have to transition to online learning, many families in New Haven don’t have access to WiFi.”

The city did hand out of thousands of Chromebooks but there’s not enough to go around and some children don’t have access to WiFi.  

“We have 21,000 kids in our public school system. The city of New Haven has given out around 8,000 devices to K-12 students but you see that’s a huge gap,” added Mayor Elicker.

For the students who aren’t able to access online learning, the district is providing paper packets. Steven Winter says no internet widens the gap between the haves and have not’s. 

“The internet is vital right now because that’s the way these students are connecting to their teachers in some sense of normalcy, so to give a student a packet and say figure it out, it’s not enough,” said Winter, the Ward 21 Alder.

Mayor Elicker added, “our school leaders did a survey of New Haven public school families and found that 70% of families do have access to WiFi but that 30% number is pretty concerning.”

The city of New Haven has been exploring installing WiFi citywide.

“These things take time. They take some infrastructure, but obviously they are a very significant priority because families currently that have kids that need to learn don’t have the ability in their homes to access the very learning materials that will help their kids grow,” said Mayor Elicker.

Winter said that New Haven needs to get high-quality internet access into the neighborhoods that need it. 

“We really got to work on this. It’s 2020 and we need to make sure that every community has reliable access to the internet, the same way that they have reliable electricity or clean water,” Winter added.