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Schools Find Ways To Deal With A COVID-19 Created Digital Divide

State Superintendent Carmen Ayala speaking prior to the pandemic.
Illinois State Board of Education
State Superintendent Carmen Ayala speaking prior to the pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis has placed many school districts and families on the wrong side of the digital divide. State Superintendent Carmen Ayala says creativity is  helping to bridge the gap.

Ayala says the state board has allocated $80 million toward purchase of computer devices and connectivity hotspots to help with remote learning. Forty two percent of schools have both remote and in-person learning and a third are remote only.

“We have had areas where the universities opened up their internet access, and we have families that were able to park in the parking lot and download some of the lessons,'' she said.

Several universities and colleges, including Eastern Illinois, Illinois State, Southern, Western and the University of Illinois have allowed internet access for younger students and their families.

The Illinois State Board of Education has also put out guidance for remote learning and we engaged, you know, 50-60, stakeholders, teachers, practitioners from across the state that came together to put together strategies (and )recommendations for how to conduct remote learning,'' she said.

"Many of our school districts were providing professional development for teachers over the sumer, and so are there are probably challenges in different areas across the state, but I think we're in a much better place than where we were when the pandemic first first close our school," Ayala said.

Copyright 2021 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.