DENVER — As Colorado schools transitioned to online learning this spring, about 54,000 school-age children were living in households without internet access, a study found, and the majority of those students are Hispanic and come from low-income families.
Also, nearly half the children without internet access are in elementary school and nearly 60 percent have at least one parent who works in an essential industry, according to the study from the Colorado Futures Center, a group based out of Colorado State University that studies fiscal issues in the state.
Colorado has about 1 million school-age children, and nearly 95% have internet access. But of the 54,102 school-age children without internet, about two-thirds are Hispanic, and Hispanic students are disproportionately without internet in four of five regions in the state, according to the study.
In the Front Range region, around 70% of Hispanic school-age children are without internet, while Hispanic students make up around 30% of the population. The percentage of Hispanic students without internet access is also disproportionately higher in the Western Slope, south-central/southeast and Eastern Plains regions.
School districts, including Denver Public Schools, have provided students with laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots for remote learning. But the Futures Center said the study highlighted the state's most vulnerable students, regardless of internet access. The group asked leaders to consider how they can support those students during remote learning but also during the summer months.
"While access to the internet is necessary, it’s not all that children need to thrive in a distance learning environment," the Futures Center said in a news release. "Our state’s most vulnerable children are at risk of falling further behind their peers if the only support Colorado provides these young learners is an internet connection."