November 4, 2020
Each day during the pandemic, 13,000 students in New York City’s homeless shelters attempt to join Zooms with their teachers and log in to Google Classroom to obtain the education that is their right. But for too many of these students, the challenge is not a math problem or an essay, but accessing their classes in the first place. Of the more than 200 shelters housing children across the five boroughs, only a handful have internet access — leaving many children who already have faced tremendous loss and disruption also cut off from instruction, cut off from classwork and homework, and cut off from their teachers and their peers.
Mayor de Blasio recently announced his intention to finally provide Wi-Fi internet access to all family shelters by the summer — well after this school year ends. This timeline is too little, too late to provide access to education for students who can’t afford to waste this whole year. And while the City offered students iPads with cellular data plans, the devices have proven useless in many cases because of limited bandwidth or non-existent cellular reception at many shelters.
We need a plan to immediately connect students in our family shelters to the instruction they need. Drawing on our recent experience during the pandemic, together we have outlined recommendations to expedite the delivery of critical Internet service and avoid massive learning loss for children who are already contending with immense disparities.