SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — The state of California will need at least $500 million to ensure all students across the state have Internet access and the technology required for at-home education during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said Wednesday.

According to Thurmond, about 600,000 students in California are in need of a computer or tablet and as many as 400,000 students lack Internet access at home. Thurmond said the state wouldn’t discriminate in reaching that total, whether the funds came from a federal stimulus package or philanthropic internet service providers.

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“You can just break it down into small parts,” Thurmond said in a Wednesday morning briefing on the so-called “digital divide.” “That means 100 companies that make a commitment of at least $5 million to help our students have the success that they need. We can get there in any different way.”

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Thurmond praised some companies for the steps they have already taken to help students in California secure Internet access at home and a computer or a tablet.

In March, Verizon and the Los Angeles Unified School District announced a partnership to provide Internet access to all of the district’s students who lack it at home. At that time, the district had roughly 100,000 students who did not have Internet access.

In the Bay Area, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey pledged last week to give $10 million to a fundraising campaign organized by the city of Oakland, Oakland Unified School District, Oakland Public Education Fund and the non-profit organization Tech Exchange to provide Internet access and computers to the district’s roughly 50,000 students in need.

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“We just need to have the commitment from the companies to say that these are all of our California kids and we’re going to do everything we need to do to help them,” Thurmond said.

Thurmond maintained that he expects the state’s public schools to re-open for in-person classes in August and September with health and safety modifications like the use of face coverings, smaller class sizes and increased distance between desks to prevent the spread of the virus.

The state’s Department of Education plans to announce its school re-opening plans in early June, according to Thurmond.

“We’ve got 10,000 schools (in California),” Thurmond said of the state’s re-opening guidance. “There is no one size fits all. … (W)e’ve actually been talking with school districts about the guidance so that we can calibrate it with the work that they’re doing, with the plans that they’re making so that we also can address questions that they have.”

 

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