OAKLAND (CBS SF) – The city of Oakland, Oakland Unified School District, Oakland Public Education Fund and the non-profit organization Tech Exchange announced a campaign Thursday to raise $12.5 million for computer and internet access to all students in Oakland.

The fundraising campaign was spurred by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forcing students to learn and participate in class while at home. At the outset of the pandemic, roughly half of the district’s 50,000 students lacked internet access.

The district has since loaned more than 18,000 Google Chromebooks from its school inventories to students across the city, but some 5,000 students and their families still lack proper internet access and computer technology.

“I know many seniors who are signing up for scholarships and missed a deadline because of not having a computer or not being able to afford the internet,” Skyline High School student Jessica Ramos said.

The campaign has already received donations from philanthropic partners like the Golden State Warriors, Amazon, Comcast, Verizon and the Kapor Center.

The campaign builds on a previous fundraising effort by the district, city and the Oakland Public Education Fund to raise roughly $4 million for general pandemic relief and education technology.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has said that the district and the city would need $12.5 million just to get all students in the district connected to the internet. Another $4 million would be required annually to maintain that infrastructure.

“There is a small silver lining in this moment, it is that people have never been more motivated to learn, to get their digital literacy,” Schaaf said Thursday morning. “We all are getting new digital skills because of shelter-in-place. Let us extend those to the people who need them most.”

The campaign announced Thursday it has raised $2 million of a $2.5 million goal that would allow the district and the city to furnish all students in the district with internet access and computers through the end of the school year.

“The internet should be a public utility like water, power and even the freeway system, for all of us to use,” district Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel said. “Until we have universal broadband in this country, we need to do all we can to make the internet available to our students.”

More information about the fund can be found at oaklandedfund.org/digitaldivide.

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