In an online news conference Friday morning, Governor Jay Inslee announced — almost exactly one year to the day after he issued an order closing schools statewide to confront the rise of COVID-19 — that he will sign an emergency proclamation requiring all K-12 students in the state be provided with some in-class learning by the end of April. The order requires that by April 5, all students in grades K-6 must be provided a hybrid model of instruction with at least some in-class learning, and by April 19, all students in grades K-12 must be provided some in-class instruction.
Nine months into the coronavirus pandemic, Seattle students and their families are still confronting a disproportionately large divide in who can and cannot access technology and online learning, though the City and Seattle Public Schools (SPS) are launching an array of initiatives that could close the gap. According to the May 2020 Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Survey, “at least 8,800 students still need adequate, reliable internet.” A July report published by sea.citi — a network of regional tech and innovation companies working to promote civic engagement and build relationships between community, government, and innovation workers — shows stark inequities among students without access. The most glaring inequity in the report is that almost half of all Black residents in Washington have a barrier to accessing reliable internet. Economic barriers are cited as the most prevalent in households without the internet, making Black students in the state five times more likely to not have access.
Rainier Beach High School freshman Fatima Kabba says it’s really hard for her to learn from home, even with a good internet connection.
“Sometimes, it’s pretty hard, because you can’t find, like, a quiet space to do your work,” Kabba said. “And sometimes there’s other people with different classes, and sometimes you might share the same room with your siblings, so it might be hard for you to concentrate. If we did have online classes, imagine having seven siblings, each one [on] a device — and you’re probably in separate rooms, but you’re going to hear their noises.”