SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — One of the South Bay’s largest school systems has been scrambling to close a wide gap in attendance and equipment issues that have been major obstacles to effective online learning.

“We had some struggles in the beginning with the equipment that was provided. One of the devices that we had actually had a hard time logging onto the system,” said parent Anthony Ricalde of the first few days of the new school year at Ann Darling Elementary in San Jose.

Ricalde says he has generally been pleased with the quality of online instruction for his daughter Ava and son Aaron once those technical issues were ironed out.

But the first-day attendance numbers at Ann Darling Elementary highlight a wide attendance and achievement disparity separating some of San Jose Unified’s wealthier and poorer school. A district spokesperson says under 70% of students at Ann Darling showed up for the first day of class whereas there was nearly perfect attendance at some of the district’s wealthier schools.

“We have been able to reduce the inequities due to the efforts of our school staff. They’ve followed up with families and connected them with technology,” said district spokesperson Ben Spielberg. “But there’s still going to be those persistent gaps.”

Teachers say the attendance numbers only tell part of the story. They say students are struggling with equipment issues and spotty Wi-Fi connections.

“I have a couple of students who on a daily basis their video isn’t fully functioning. They’re present and I can talk with them through the video conference. But sometimes their video won’t work because their bandwidth isn’t sufficient,” said Patrick Bernhardt, a union representative and teacher at Pioneer High School.

The district has handed out more than 19-thousand laptops and tablets and more than five-thousand WiFi hotspots over the summer and first few weeks of the school year.

Teachers say the equipment, unfortunately, doesn’t completely level the playing field for students.

“We can have a student living in a two-million-dollar house living a mile away from a student who doesn’t know where they’re going to sleep that night. And two try to make things equitable for all of those students, I don’t know if it’s possible,” says Jodi Disario, a teacher at Willow Glen High School.

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