Google is providing 4,000 Chromebooks to California students and free Wi-Fi to 100,000 rural households during the coronavirus pandemic. CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday tweeted the good news, writing that he is “proud to work with [California Gov.] Gavin Newsom … to help bridge the digital divide in our home state.”
The announcement comes on the heels of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond urging schools to continue distance learning as students likely won’t return to campus before summer.
“This was a substantial enhancement that came just at the right time,” Gov. Newsom said in a briefing, as reported by EdSource. Only about a third of rural California households subscribe to the Internet, versus nearly 80 percent in urban areas, while some 20 percent of all students can’t even access the web at home, according to the news site.
“We acknowledge that students only being able to be served through distance learning creates hardship for some students, families, and educators,” Thurmond wrote in a letter to the state’s 58 school superintendents. “However, we are urging a safety-first approach out of an abundance of caution.”
Google’s donation could halve the number of pupils without at-home internet access, California State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond said during this week’s press conference. “I’m hopeful that by the time we resume school-based instruction, we will in fact have closed that digital gap and taught a lot of people, kids and teachers and parents, how to engage in learning online,” she added.