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Kids attend classes in car as one Nipomo family struggles with at-home WiFi

kids learning in car
Posted at 6:25 PM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 21:54:10-04

It’s back to school in the back seat of a car for one Nipomo family.

The Martinez family is still working to get WiFi to support all five of their kids’ distance learning needs, si for the first week of school, classes were attended in the car outside Dana Elementary School.

With a new school year underway, WiFi is essential for students to log on to virtual classes, but even with one district-provided hot-spot, it wasn’t enough for the family of seven during the first week.

“It's hard because I get distracted,” said Alex Martinez, a fourth-grader at Dorothea Lange Elementary.

He and his older sister, Aleah, are learning multiplication while sitting in a car in the middle of a heatwave with the air conditioner cranked.

“There’s not that much space and it’s uncomfortable,” said Aleah Martinez, a fifth-grader at Dorothea Lange.

Their at-home WiFi isn't enough to support all five kids, so for the time being, mother Andrea takes four of them to parking lots with stronger connectivity.

“They need to learn more and more. This is why I come here,” Martinez said.

The first week of school took place in the parking lots of Dana Elementary School and Starbucks where you can access the internet without having to go inside.

Pandemic-induced distance learning is one of the many struggles families are facing.

“It's difficult because the kids don't want to stay in the car for a long time,” Martinez said.

It's time she could use for her other responsibilities.

“I need to clean the house and make the food,” she said.

Instead, she spends that time making sure her kids aren't marked absent from class.

Educators with the Lucia Mar Unified School District say they're working to distribute 350 WiFi hot-spots to families in need with 250 more on the way.

“As people are starting school and seeing what school really looks like, we have been receiving additional requests for more,” said Hillery Dixon, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum for the Lucia Mar Unified School District.

The Martinez family says they already got their WiFi hot-spot, but one is not enough for five kids.

Martinez said this week was particularly hard getting all the kids connected to their classes, but she hopes next week will be better once stronger WiFi is installed in the home.

“We do have some families out there who continue to struggle with the distance learning model and it's very important to us to find out who is struggling, what the challenges are, so we can troubleshoot those challenges,” Dixon said.

District officials said a WiFi hot-spot supports two to three kids, but a family can get more than one if needed.