Twin Ridges Elementary School District receives 91 Chromebooks, hot spots |

Twin Ridges Elementary School District receives 91 Chromebooks, hot spots

On Thursday, the Twin Ridges Elementary School District received 91 Chromebooks and an equal number of Wi-Fi hot spots to be distributed to students.

One month has passed since local schools announced they would be transitioning to “Distance Learning” in response to a need to mitigate the community spread of COVID-19. In the time since, it has been confirmed that school closures will remain in effect until the end of the academic year, prompting local teachers and administrators to seek support in making remote education more accessible long-term.

The Chromebooks and mobile hot spots being distributed by the California Department of Education (CDE) have been donated by Google. Gov. Gavin Newsom this month announced a state partnership with Google, and has encouraged other companies to emulate the company’s efforts.

The hot spots are portable devices which create a mobile Wi-Fi network, allowing students internet access for the remainder of the school year.

The Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which includes Washington and Grizzly Hill schools, has faced challenges in transitioning to remote education. Located on the South Fork of the Yuba River and the San Juan Ridge, respectively, these schools serve communities which are geographically widespread and largely rural.

Only 10% of residents have a reliable internet connection on the San Juan Ridge.

Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay had sent requests for assistance to several groups, including the CDE, in an effort to acquire the technological resources to help students succeed.

“Twin Ridges is definitely the district that needed it most,” said Lay. “They were our number one priority.”

According to Lay, the distribution of the Chromebooks and hot spots will make a sizable impact.

“That should meet every student up there,” said Lay.

This assistance came after a great deal of persistence on the part of the Twin Ridges Elementary School District and the office of the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools, including many phone calls to the office of Tony Thurmond, the state superintendent of public instruction.

According to a CDE statement released Thursday, Thurmond has created a task force which aims to “close the digital divide for California students who lack access to resources such as internet connectivity and devices.”

The Closing the Digital Divide Task Force will “facilitate donations, create more publicity, and shine a spotlight on those who can help,” according to the CDE. Going forward, the CDE, Governor’s Office, State Board of Education, and Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation will jointly carry out this mission through the California Bridging the Digital Divide Fund.

This development has the potential to make an impact in more Nevada County districts, as the CDE has announced its intent to give special focus to disproportionately affected communities, including those in rural areas.

“It seems they are prioritizing rural districts over urban districts,” said Lay.

Lay has asked for 200 additional hot spots, hoping to expand this assistance to more local districts.

“We want more hot spots in the community so parents don’t have to drive as far,” said Lay.

It is currently unclear what effects remote learning will have on academic progress, particularly for students with limited access.

According to Lay, it will be important to emphasize essential standards in order to ensure students will get through the appropriate curriculum.

“We’re taking it one piece at a time but we’re making progress, which is good,” said Lay.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union.

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