NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — “What happened last spring showed the inequities that we have across the system,” Dr. Iline Tracey, Superintendent of New Haven Public Schools, said of the digital divide among students during the pandemic.

The digital divide reared its ugly head during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) first shut down in March, leaving many families without the tools to log on for virtual learning.

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So this school year, the plan is to have the remote learning experience not only be accessible but equitable.

“New Haven Public Schools is going to guarantee every child has access to a device and every child has access to the internet,” said New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker (D).

Elicker told News 8 the effort to make sure all 21,000 families have access to the tools they need to succeed is a partnership between state and federal funding, along with funding from partners like the Dalia Foundation and Yale University.

They are ensuring students not only have the tools but the connection. Earlier this week, Mayor Justin Elicker will announce a plan to help close the digital divide among students in the Elm City. 

“There’s gonna be 10,000 Comcast sign-ups available to families who don’t already have the internet, and also, the state has set aside 3,000 3G devices, like wifi hot spots,” he said.”New Haven Public Schools is working on a strategy to work on who gets devices based on [the] number of family members and ages of the children.”

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Dr. Tracey said her vision of having each student connected is looking like it will come to pass, but it’s not without its challenges as many of the devices are back-ordered. The devices will not arrive on the first day of school, so teachers are working on ways to serve students who may not have their device until it arrives.

She adds that 5,700 Dell laptops were donated to high school students in grades 9 through 12.

Middle school students can also expect a device along with tablets for the lower level students.

They are connecting students during an uncertain time — one device at a time.

“We try to make sure that the households that have multiple students that every student has a device, last time that was not the case,” she said.

Those in need of WiFi can contact New Haven Public Schools.

The district will start the year off with 10 weeks of remote learning.

Even though students will be working from home, the district is still offering breakfast and lunch to all New Haven Public Schools students from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Parents and guardians may pick up meals for NHPS students to take home.