Once School Bell Rings in Rural CA, Internet Access is Over

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While communities across the United States are taking steps to bring internet access to all residents, rural students may find their access limited to the confines of the school. As PBS News Hour reports, some farm communities’ schools are able to keep their kids connected during class time, but a lack of internet connectivity at home prevents the students from progressing any further on their own time. 

Alpaugh, California is one such community. 

“We have a disadvantage because of the lack of technology,” stated Alpaugh High School principal Nancy Ruble. “Not here at school, but in the community.” It is estimated that 78 percent of urban students have internet at home, as opposed to the 30 percent of rural students who do. PBS describes this situation as a “homework gap” with technologically advantaged students having an upper hand.

Non-profit organization Common Sense Media claims, “Students without broadband access are disadvantaged when their teachers are not able to assign homework that’s most relevant to or useful for them.” Students in Alpaugh are faced with an even wider gap. Only 13.8 percent of their residents have internet at home.  

California has invested millions in broadband outreach over the past few years but the difficulty, and cost, of extending services to remote populations still leaves rural students lagging behind.  

“In our rural area, computer science isn’t often seen but it’s used in fields like agriculture and medicine. And jobs in the Central Valley that require computer science are expected to increase,” said educational consultant, Katherine Goyette. “Without internet at home to do computer science coursework – or if rural schools don’t offer these courses at all – students can miss out on opportunities to learn technology skills needed across a variety of fields.” 

January 9, 2020   

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