AZ Education Association: Online Schooling Highlights Socioeconomic Divides

Published: Monday, April 13, 2020 - 5:05am

Transitioning K-12 classes to an online format works well enough when students have stable internet connection, a device and a distraction-free work space. For poorer families, sometimes none of those are possible. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most Americans to endure less-than-ideal conditions. For some, that means working from home and cancelling plans. For others, it means unemployment and fear. And for millions of students across the country, it means online classes.

With many adults working from home and students attending remote classes online, inequity in access to technology is becoming more apparent and evident, says Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association.

"They either don’t have internet in their home, they don’t have a device that works, or they don’t have enough devices for their home once you factor in parents may need it for work if they’re home as well, and their siblings may need it if they’re home too," Thomas said.

Compounding the issue, Thomas says, are often-crowded houses as more people stay home during the pandemic. Distractions from siblings, pets, and parents working from home detracts from learning. This isn't always a problem in larger houses — but if a student shares a bedroom or a small apartment, the difficulties increase.

"You have younger brothers or sisters coming in the frame because they want to see what's going on," Thomas said. "You'll have parents that will need to use the computer. For the most part I think people are trying their best to set scheduled times to work."

Teachers are making accommodations for students who may not have laptops or internet access. Some are working with students over the phone and sending assignment packets to homes.

"It really is about finding a way to work with your students," Thomas said. "This is a situation that families are facing. And we as educators don't want to add burden or add any stress to an already stressful situation."

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