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 SDCOE Helps Low-Income Families Get Online

Volunteers handing out computers

The San Diego County Office of Education has helped thousands of families get refurbished computers and discounted internet access this year.

The effort is in collaboration with the nonprofit groups Connect2Compete and Computers 2 SD Kids as well as Cox Communications.

Any family with children in a participating school can get a refurbished computer filled with educational software for $65, and those who qualify for free lunch can also sign up for high-speed internet access for $10 a month.

The effort ties in to SDCOE’s Strategic Plan, which emphasizes the need to develop initiatives that encourage digital literacy for all students. With internet access, students are able to do more school work from home, participate in online lessons and access information more easily.

“I think what we see in this county is some districts and students are much more inclined to implement innovative technologies in the classroom because they’re confident that the students have access to those technologies at home,” said Joseph Hartman, technology integration architect with SDCOE. “We call that the digital divide.”

SDCOE employees have worked with schools, districts, parents, and other organizations to help facilitate and promote the services. Employees with the Migrant Education Unit also have volunteered to help at the distribution events.

“A lot of migrant families don’t have computers, and this gives them an opportunity to at least have one so their kids can do their homework,” said Luis Murguia, a migrant outreach worker with SDCOE.

So far this year, Computers 2 SD Kids has distributed more than 4,000 computers to families in Vista, Chula Vista, and Escondido.

On Wednesday, there were nearly 70 families picking them up at Monte Vista Elementary School in Vista.

Families at the event said they thought the computers would help their children do better on schoolwork.

“It’s for the kids,” said Marisela Sanchez, who picked up a computer Wednesday. “We want a computer so they can study more and don’t need to go to the library.”

Ron Diaz said that even though he already has a computer, getting one for his grandson will help prepare him to get ahead in life.

“For anybody who wants to do anything important in life and get ahead in life it’s necessary to be hooked into a computer,” he said. “If you aren’t, you’re in bad shape.”

Families can see if they qualify for the discounted internet service at the Connect2Compete website.

Connect2Compete started with a pilot program to bring low-cost internet access to needy families in 2011 in nine San Diego County school districts and has now expanded nationwide, including 38 of the county’s 42 districts. Computers 2 SD Kids has been distributing computers to low-income families since 2005.

This is the first year that the SDCOE has arranged for families to be able to pick up the computers and sign up for internet access at their neighborhood schools.

“With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards and 21st-century learning concepts, computers are more important than ever,” said Charlene Manuto, principal at Monte Vista Elementary School. “They’re no longer going to be an extra. They’re basically going to be a requirement for learning.”

Photo: Volunteers with Computers 2 SD Kids distribute computers Sept. 25 at Monte Vista Elementary School in Vista.​