How one city closed the digital divide for nearly all students


OAKLAND, Calif. — After schools went remote in 2020, Jessica Ramos spent hours that spring and summer sitting on a bench in front of her local Oakland Public Library branch in the vibrant and diverse Dimond District. Ramos would connect to the library’s Wi-Fi — sometimes on her cellphone, sometimes using her family’s only laptop — to complete assignments and submit essays or tests for her classes at Skyline High School.

Ramos, used to texting quickly, was able to do simple assignments online, so at first her schoolwork was very easy. Then came the five-page papers for her two AP classes. “It was a hassle,” she said. “I was like, this is not for me.”

Ramos’ parents promised to buy her a laptop eventually, but bills mounted and it wasn’t in the family’s budget. Ramos knew there were many kids like her, eager to keep up with school but lacking the technology to do so. To her, it was “heartbreaking.”


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Natasha M. McKnight

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