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What it’s like to learn online from inside a homeless shelter

Hannah Natanson, The Washington Post |

The eight children, gathered inside a converted living room area in the Serve Family Shelter in Prince William County, Va., represent a population of learners that educators and advocates say has been largely forgotten amid the devastation wrought across the country by the coronavirus pandemic.

The shift to online learning has drastically widened existing equity gaps in U.S. education, driving drops in attendance, college applications and academic performance among the nation’s most vulnerable students: children who are low-income, Black or Hispanic, as well as those with learning disabilities and those whose first language is not English. All too often, homeless children — of whom there are 2.5 million every year in America — combine these factors.

The shuttering of schools nationwide in March immediately shattered any semblance of stability for millions of homeless children who depend on schools for food, emotional support, or even just a warm, uncomplicated place to think. Trying to learn inside shelters for the past nine months, students have faced spotty WiFi, crowded rooms, high noise levels and harassment from some peers who deduce, over Zoom, that they lack a home.

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