Oakland Unified Using Summer Break To Address Digital Divide

Thursday is the last day of school in Oakland, and Oakland Unified School District officials will be spending their summer break working to close the digital divide before classes begin again in August.

The district was able to raise $12.5 million through the Oakland Undivided campaign, an effort in partnership with the city, the Oakland Public Education Find and Tech Exchange focused on providing home computers and Internet connections for families that can't afford them or simply don't have access to the technology.  

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's $10 million donation to the campaign came in mid-May.

The plan for the funds now calls for the district to use that money to close the digital divide.

It’s unclear just what those classes for Oakland public school kids will look like come August 10 when the next academic year begins, but Spokesman John Sasaki believes there will very likely be at least some distance learning involved.

"We’re going to be getting computers for all of our students who need them, across Oakland Unified, including our charter schools," Sasaki said. "That’s about 25,000 students, roughly half of our school district."

Sasaki said, however, that there will be other expenses not related to technology that the district will have to address.

"Now we’re really focused on our second round, which is making sure that we have enough money to keep the digital divide closed every year after," Sasaki said. "And so we have to raise another $4 million per year to make sure that that happens."

Social distancing, PPE and additional staff cleaning are on the list.

That will cost money.

As for the technology, the district hopes to have the tools students need in their hands and homes by August 10.