San Gabriel Valley family details struggle of growing digital divide amid virus era

The pandemic is calling greater attention to a growing digital divide.  Navigating through the new challenges of distance learning is hard enough, but so many students still don’t even have reliable internet access to sign in for class, as experienced first-hand by one family in the San Gabriel Valley.

Christian Alford, 13, and his 7-year-old sister Milagros say they have difficultly logging in for class because they face challenges connecting to the internet.

"It sucks cause my mom is getting e-mails from teachers saying 'your child is not doing homework.'  I would if I could, I just can’t.  Usually, after it cuts out my mom tries to fix it and I end up going back to sleep because there’s nothing she can do and that’s my day of school," Christian said.

Classes at the Covina-Valley Unified School District started weeks ago but the broadband service at the Starlite mobile home where the Alford family lives is weak and hotpots issued by the district don’t seem to help.


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After three frustrating weeks of troubleshooting, technical support from the school district arrived the same morning FOX 11 spoke to the Alford family.

The family was given brand new Chromebooks and additional hotspots.  Their mother, Ronedra Alford, hopes that he kids can get back on track.

"They’re in their third week and they haven’t had a successful day of school yet," she said. "My greatest fear with her is that she’ll fall behind because she’s learning basics."

Officials from the Covina-Valley Unified School district say they’re aware of the enormous challenges faced by families living in underserved areas.

"They continue to have issues.  It could be all the metal around them. We’ve reached out to Sprint, the provider of the mobile hotspots to troubleshoot the circuits to make sure they can connect.  We’re looking at the device to make sure multiple devices aren’t connecting to the hotspots," Covina-Valley Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Blackmore said. 

The district says it will continue to provide home technical support and new devices.

As of this week, the district will provide staffed daycare so that students can go to physically distanced classrooms and use the WiFi on campus.

The district has identified an estimated  270 school children who live at Starlight Mobile Home Park.

However, just as the Alfords get back online, FOX 11 continued to receive messages from other parents reporting similar problems connecting. In response, the district says they will continue to reach out to families to try and bridge the digital divide.

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