On days when the internet is slow at ‘Ilima Intermediate School, Sarah “Mili” Milianta-Laffin says it’s like she’s teaching STEM to blank squares on a screen. “Poor internet connection is one of our biggest hurdles as a Title I school,” she says, referring to its high number of low-income families.
At Kaua‘i High School, language arts teacher Jon Medeiros is looking for students who have simply not shown up on his screen. Out of his 135 kids, there are five he has not been able to reach despite repeated phone calls and emails. “If a student is in front of me in person, it’s harder for them to avoid me,” he says. “I can ensure they participate. But the pandemic has made it too easy for them to disappear.
“It’s like they’ve completely vanished. And those kids worry us. Are they safe? Are they learning?” Medeiros says. “And if their internet is the problem, we have devices or hot spots they can pick up at the school. But if we can’t reach them, how can we help them?”