Before and after classes at Panguitch High School, a low-slung brick building nestled in the high desert of southern Utah, students find their way to Shawn Caine's classroom. They settle in at the computers where Caine teaches coding and software, or they head to the back room for the 3D printer, vinyl cutter, and robotics kits. Some kids come to log extra time on class projects. Others show up just for the internet. Her district of Garfield County has provided a computer to every student since 2016.
Homework is often hated by both kids and their parents, and now some schools are getting rid of it all together. On the tiny screen, she switches between web pages for research projects, losing track of tabs whenever friends send messages. She uses her thumbs to tap out school papers, but when glitches keep her from submitting assignments electronically, she writes them out by hand. "At least I have something, instead of nothing, to explain the situation," said Raegan, a high school senior in Hartford. She is among nearly 3 million students around the country who face struggles keeping up with their studies because they must make do without home internet.
Spring break just began for Kyii Sells-Wheeler, but he's already wondering how he'll complete his school work when classes resume in a little more than a week. A sophomore at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, Sells-Wheeler is one of thousands of students who have seen their colleges cancel in-person classes and transition to online learning as a precaution against the coronavirus outbreak, which school leaders have described as an "unprecedented crisis." And a member of Navajo Nation, he is one of thousands of Native American students who come from reservations with notoriously limited internet access. "We still had classes today, so I was asking my professors, 'What if we come from an area where internet access isn't readily available or reliable?'" Sells-Wheeler, 20, said Friday, adding that many instructors told him they don't yet know the answer.
Corey Shepherd teaches fifth graders in rural Alaska in a school district the size of Indiana. The terrain there is so rural that only airplanes and snowmobiles connect the district's 11 tiny villages. Shepherd is one of more than 7,000 teachers in her state trying to make the most of teaching her students since the governor closed schools to in-person learning to stop the spread of the coronavirus. "Around half of my students have access to the internet on some device at home," Shepherd said. "Internet service is very expensive in rural Alaska and comes with data caps. Internet service is also prone to interruptions due to weather."
Students use Chromebooks in Joanie Bryant's class at Waggoner Elementary School in Winters. Students use Chromebooks in Joanie Bryant's class at Waggoner Elementary School in Winters. Until a few years ago, most students in Winters -- a farming community of 7,000 west of Sacramento -- did not have computers at home. So the city's then-mayor, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, pushed for a program that enabled the school district's sixth-graders to check out laptops along with their textbooks. Their parents were required to learn how to use the computers as well.