When the coronavirus pandemic began in March, Cynthia González – the principal of a South Los Angeles high school that focuses on technology – believed she had her school under control.
“For several years the students already received tablets and for us it was not a big problem in the distribution,” he said.
What she did not count on was finding out that a large percentage of the 516 students did not have internet access at home.
“I got frustrated and thought, how have they done their homework all this time? ‘” González recalled.
What she found was that students waited until they were in school or anywhere else that had Wi-Fi access so they could connect their tablets and do their work.
Without letting time pass, the principal began a curriculum with the teachers, and obtained advice from the counselors, on how to respond if the students needed help.
She also managed to get portable hotspots (a wireless network that provides access to the Internet) but immediately ran into another problem.
Some students were unable to connect as the computers were not signaling in all neighborhoods.
At the end of the semester the results revealed that only about 30% of the students managed to complete their work in the last semester.
Much desire but few resources
The problems faced by the high school where González works are a reflection of a new national survey of high school principals – which included 76 schools in Southern California – that showed inequality in times of COVID-19 during the spring.
The UCLA report, “Learning Lessons: US Public High Schools and the Spring 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic,” showed that while study centers tried to respond as best they could to the pandemic, resources sometimes did not allow them to do much for their students.
John Rogers, a professor of education at UCLA and lead author of the report, said the survey showed that while schools had no time to prepare at all, they responded in a “heroic” way not only in providing instruction, but also in meeting various needs despite limits.
Rogers, who is director of the Institute for Democracy at UCLA, said that in schools where communities are very poor, principals and school staff were already working with limited budgets because the needs were already substantial.
“And then, within the COVID-19 environment, the needs grew more due to economic distress, health concerns due to the trauma that is unfolding as young people experienced death in their families in their communities and therefore , the directors wanted to respond to all that, “he explained
Principal González agreed with this point and mentioned that when schools switched to virtual format she saw the number of students drop significantly.