State looks to bridge digital divide with mobile learning hubs

Published: Oct. 31, 2020 at 8:41 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 31, 2020 at 8:46 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the pandemic continues, thousands of Hawaii public school students across the state remain in a distance learning format.

However, one of the side effects of distance learning is the issue of access as not every student has a home computer or reliable internet.

In order to bridge that digital divide, the Department of Education has set up mobile learning hubs in communities on the Big Island and Oahu to ensure all needs are met.

“We serve a very large geographic area from one school in Naalehu to our school in Pahoa, it’s over 100 miles,” said DOE Kau-Keaau Pahoa complex area district education specialist Iwalani Harris.

“We’re just trying to make sure that our arms are longer, so that we can go and help more kids just because we are making it possible by being in the most remote areas.”

Those areas include Keaau and Kau where the state’s mobile classrooms are complete with computers, WIFI, power, and instructors.

Students come from different grades and schools and in addition to a place to learn, these hubs offer much-needed social interaction.

“It’s kind of hard because a lot of our friend groups is like all disappeared because some of us don’t have technology and because we don’t have technology, we don’t have contact with our friends,” said Keaau high school student Kysha Carvalho.

As this pilot program develops, the hope is to add sites and fold in more services such as transportation and keep these hubs running even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m not going to say that we know and we have everything to provide for students, but if there’s a way that we can connect them with other services then we should be able to at least partner with others,” Harris said.

There are currently three total hubs set up (two on the Big Island and one on Oahu) and the DOE is looking to establish more on Maui county and Kauai.

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