CAMDEN, NJ — The Camden school district began distributing Chromebook laptops this week to high school students and soon will do the same for K-8 — helping to provide the technology for the thousands who’ve had an added hurdle during virtual learning.   

Bryan Morton, executive director of local organization Parents for Great Camden Schools (PGCS), said that’s only half the battle.

“We knew going into the school shutdown that less than half of our households had internet,” Morton told TAPinto Camden, saying he referred to census and district data. “It’s important that everyone’s getting laptops but not everyone has a way to make them usable. It’s important we sync up the education to the technology, and internet is critical to that.”

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To address this need, PGCS has launched a campaign to inform families that Comcast is currently offering two free months of internet to Camden City residents. PGCS is offering information sessions, handing out flyers at the district’s laptop distribution, and assisting families in contacting Comcast as needed. 

According to PGCS, parents should note that service is available all throughout the city, they are eligible even if they have an unpaid balance, and no credit card information is required. 

What have parents struggled with the most in setting up the internet? Morton said misinformation surrounding pre-dis qualifiers and being deterred by “error pages” while navigating the registration process.

“For those parents, it’s necessary to call customer service which we help out with too,” Morton said. 

He also acknowledged that for some there may be a technology or language barrier given the city’s large Hispanic population.  

As a parent of three, Morton said he understands that “parents are bearing much of the brunt of educating at home.” He also noted how time is of the essence with increasing the access to internet in the city, in the event the pandemic sees a spike this fall or next spring. 

“Over the next few weeks we need to have conversations on increasing the quality of education at home,” he said. “We need to look at the best existing models for guidance.”

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