COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Laptops and the internet are the new school supplies students are going to need to be successful in the 2020-2021 school year. Getting every student a device and internet access has created a challenge that many school districts across the Lowcountry are still facing.
The Colleton County School District is providing all of its students with a device and have partnered with the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff to provide internet access for qualifying homes. Those qualifications are primarily based on household income.
While that meets the minimum requirements to attend school remotely, community activists say it is not good enough to ensure student success.
“The district is doing its part but that’s tantamount to saying go in and get a C,” said J.D. Davis, speaking on behalf of a group of parents. “We need to ensure that our students are getting the best from us in order to ensure that, during an already bad situation, we are giving them the best we can to succeed.”
Specifically, Davis says the free WIFI the district has arranged is only compatible with school issued devices.
“That is a problem,” Davis said. “A lot of parents went out and bought a device so they wouldn’t be responsible for a school device. The school needs to figure out how to make that work.”
The other option is for parents to purchase internet from a provider, but Davis says that creates a socio-economic digital divide that can stunt a student’s growth.
“They are being forced to pay a bill that, if they’re not working, they can’t pay,” Davis said. “Then their child can’t get the wifi and therefore can’t go to school. So what are we doing? Are we holding them back or matriculating them on to the next grade without the required information they need to succeed?”
Many parents also have concerns about the technology and would like to see instructional sessions to help them understand how they can check in on their child’s work.
“Most parents don’t know what Google Classroom is. They don’t know how to zoom,” Davis said.
Davis says the key to any successful student is to have a parent or parents who are actively participating in their education.