Schools left to confront remote learning despite lack of students’ technologies

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Thursday closing K-12 school buildings for the remainder of the year - but she also ordered all school districts in the state to develop a plan for teachers to continue teaching.

Her order says the remote learning can include any number of modes of instruction delivery, including a hybrid approach. Many minds, of course, go first to online learning, but access to technology is a problem for several districts.

“We have about 500,000 students, about a third of our kids, that don't have access,” Rep. Pamela Hornberger, R-Chesterfield Township, told us.

This means many don't have internet access, anyone at home to help them or the actual computer or laptop to learn.

“Ideally, we'd all like online learning,” she said.

So that begs the question – should the state give computers to kids that need them?

“I think we're going to get to that point,” Rep. Hornberger says.

RELATED: Whitmer orders K-12 schools close for rest of year, sets guidelines for remote learning

And the point hits home in the Hazel Park school district where 40% of the 3,500 students don't have computers.

“Or they don't have internet,” added Amy Kruppe, the superintendent of the district.

She told us understands the governor’s plan for online learning but that it won't be easy.

“Because sometimes with the computer companies or with the internet companies, you have to have had no bills with them or you have to have not been connected with them for a certain time," she added. 

She’s hoping the United Way will help the district or that the CARES Act from the federal government will also help with that.

And Dr. Niikoai Vitti in Detroit says his district has the same problem.

“We are actively working with the business community to implement a strategy to provide all DPSCD families with a tablet and Internet access,” he said in a statement.

If you have access to computers or laptops, let them know. They can use it at this crucial time.

“We need to keep their mind active and do appropriate things. Have them reading, have them learning because they’re the future the reading and learning because there's a future,” Kruppe said.

Whitmer did say in her order that remote learning could include things like phone lessons, online classes and mailing materials mailed to homes. Schools who do decide to rely on virtual learning should also ensure that every student has access to a device that can connect to the internet.