As a new school year approaches, many schools are beginning classes virtually. While this protects the safety of students from transmitting or catching COVID-19, many students may not be able to access their classwork due to a lack of internet connectivity and other necessary technology. In the spring, there was a substantial gap between students based on their socioeconomic status and ability to connect and learn in virtual classrooms. Most notably affected are those students lacking stable housing who might be couch surfing or staying with another family. One student described their experience of online education without a stable internet connection. “I think some of my teachers thought it was just an excuse not to do my work or to not turn it in or something, but they didn’t understand my situation.”
Students experiencing housing instability may not have stable internet access, a specific space for focusing on their studies during school hours, or the necessities for engaging in a virtual environment like a computer, tablet, or smartphone. On top of this, studies have shown that many students during the spring semester were unable to reach out to teachers, administrators, or peers for educational and emotional support when they need it most. In Texas alone, approximately 1.8 million students were unable to take part in online learning in the spring because they did not have access to high-speed internet.
For many homeless students in Dallas, schools serve as a safety net. To excel in their learning efforts, students must stay connected to trusted teachers and peers and have access to the resources they need for success. Without the stability that schools offer, and without the necessary technology to connect in a virtual classroom, students face a higher risk of falling behind in their studies and facing challenges with their mental health and safety. As schools make changes during this time, they must explore new ways of ensuring that homeless students don’t get left behind or forgotten.