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State shortens upcoming school year, buys more computers for online learning

Districts have been asked to come up with three plans including one for distance or online learning only.

HARTFORD, Conn — As we race toward a fall reopening of schools, we’ve been bringing your concerns to state leaders.

On Tuesday, some of those concerns were also addressed by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal.

We’ve talked a lot about health and safety, but with an uncertain educational future, districts also need to be concerned about equity and making sure every student can access a quality learning experience. You can call it a 'homework gap.'

According to the state Department of Education, 50,000 CT kids don’t have access to a device and 29,000 don’t have reliable WiFi.

"It is as important as electricity. It’s an issue of economic opportunity, educational equity and racial justice," said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. Senator Richard Blumenthal led a round table discussion at the Hartford Public Library were Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Schools Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, and parents and teachers had a goal — to bridge the digital divide. "Red states, blue states they are all unconnected. Thousands even millions of Americans are unconnected. That is a national disgrace and a scandal," said Sen. Blumenthal.

The Partnership for Connecticut, a philanthropic partnership with the Dalio Foundation has provided 60,000 laptops to students with another 15,000 arriving this month.

Hartford Parent Viviana Alvarado said, "Many students did not do their homework because they did not have access to internet but we did ask that before because they were coming to the school. So they were like you have access here. Yes, but I only have my phone at home."

Public health data has CT on track for a full in-person reopening in the Fall, but that data can change any day.

Districts have been asked to come up with three plans — one for distance or online learning only. Districts have a lot on their plate.

Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, the Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools asked, "Should it be up to the school districts to have to solve reliable internet in addition to everything else? You sense a level of frustration.

For students, parents and teachers having trouble keeping kids busy, the state established the Connecticut Learning Hub.

An online portal with access to academic and social and emotional learning materials.

Parent Daphney Romero said, "You have to make sure that these parents know what they are doing. Some of us need an instruction manual. The support, the WiFi, the connectivity needs to be there and we definitely need the devices."

RELATED: Sen. Blumenthal joins educators, parents to discuss lack of technology for students

RELATED: Concerns over school reopening taken to Gov. Lamont

We also learned Tuesday that the state Department of Education will purchase 12,000 additional laptops costing $4-million with funds coming from the federal cares act.

The state will also waive the 180 school day requirement.

The upcoming school year will only last 177 days with three days devoted to COVID safety training.