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DPSCD and business leaders are investing $23 million to give students tablets and internet

school hallway
Detroit Public Schools
Detroit Public Schools
Hallway in Cass Tech High School in Detroit

City of Detroit, community and business leaders are donating $23 million to give Detroit Public Schools Community District students wireless tablets and internet access.

DPSCD estimates that 90% of the district’s students do not have access to an internet-ready device and internet service itself.

The plan is to give every student in the district a tablet and six months of internet connectivity, which will be fully subsidized by the program. During that time, the district said students will be transitioned to a low-cost, hard-wired connection.

Nikolai Vitti, the DPSCD Superintendent, said the district has actually been trying to invest more in technology to fix the "digital divide" for the past three years, but this COVID-19 crisis may have forced the issue.

“The ability for our students to access the educational platforms that they use during the school day from home will elevate their learning year-round, not just during this crisis,” Vitti said.

Vitti says the tablets should be passed out to students sometime in June. There are about 51,000 K-12 students in DPSCD.

Jerry Norcia, President and CEO of DTE Energy – one of the philanthropic partners in this initiative, said his team wanted to prioritize helping Detroit’s children when it began thinking of ways to help the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We recognized that we needed to take action urgently to close the digital divide for these students and provide them with the tools necessary to thrive in the 21st century,” Norcia said.

Norcia says this plan will help put Detroit’s students on a level playing field with students from suburban school districts.

“These devices will allow students to access their homework and school studies from home, they will digitally connect students to their teachers, and allow them to continue learning during the important summer months when many students lose ground,” he said.

Tonya Allen, President and CEO of the Skillman Foundation – another philanthropic partner in this initiative, said there are tentative plans to reach the 36,000 K-12 school children who don’t attend school in the district.

“Digital access has evolved from a nicety to a necessity – and we cannot afford to let our children down,” Allen said

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Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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