The Los Angeles Unified School District and Verizon announced an agreement Wednesday that will help other school districts in California enable distance learning for those who can’t afford internet access.

The new agreement is an extension of an amendment from March, when the district partnered with Verizon to purchase $100 million in computers and Wi-Fi infrastructure that enabled internet access at no cost to students whose families could not otherwise afford it.

“We need to make sure every student has the device and internet access they need to be connected with their school community,” LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “We’re delighted other students throughout California will be connected with their school communities as a result of this amended agreement between Los Angeles Unified and Verizon.”

“Verizon’s original agreement from March of this year with Los Angeles Unified to enable distance learning for 125,000 low-income children has become the gold standard framework nationally during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Verizon’s Andres Irlando said. “We’re thrilled to build on that original agreement with Los Angeles Unified to partner with the State of California to enable distance learning for hundreds of thousands of additional students across California.”

Wednesday’s announcement followed a briefing by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who raised concerns about a “digital divide” and called on major communications companies to provide free internet service for any student who can’t afford it. Thurmond said some online learning is expected to continue even after schools re-open from shutdowns enacted to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“The digital divide is very real in urban and rural communities where students do not have the devices and lack the internet access they need to be connected with their school community,” he said. “This connection has always been important but it’s never been more important than during this pandemic.”

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