PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A big announcement was made Thursday for students in New Jersey who don’t have the equipment needed for virtual learning.

Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled a new plan to close the digital divide.

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools, some students had the computers and internet connection they needed for virtual learning, but many did not.

“The Department of Education estimates roughly 230,000 of our students were put at a disadvantage in comparison to their peers because of a lack of technology or a reliable internet connectivity,” Murphy said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Many schools ended up giving out packets of assignments. The Paterson School Superintendent Eileen Shafer says only high school students were provided computers.

“The rest of the district was on paper packets, so every 10 days we were handing out paper packets and collecting them,” said Shafer in an interview with CBS2’s Cindy Hsu.

Shafer says it was a mess, so she turned to the community for help in buying more Chromebooks.

“We started asking for donations. We have people like Victor Cruz, many of the churches in the city of Paterson made donations under Reverend Clayton as well as the NAACP, but we were still short,” said Shafer.

RELATED STORY: Former Giants Wide Receiver Victor Cruz Donates Chromebooks To Paterson Public Schools

So, she’s elated with the announcement of the digital divide initiative.

Governor Murphy says it will cost around $115 million to provide equipment and internet access to all students. He says half of the money will come from the CARES Act, which is federal money from Congress. The rest will come from Emergency and Coronavirus Relief Funds and he’s hoping philanthropic and industry partners will help out too.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Andre Sayegh, the Mayor of Paterson, is hopeful about Governor Murphy’s new initiative.

“How confident are you that when school starts and they need the equipment, all the kids are gonna have it?” Hsu asked.

“If he’s going to make an announcement and say that schools can’t open unless they are appropriately equipped, then I trust him,” said Sayegh.

Each school district will need to submit a plan on what their students need and the goal is to close this digital divide for good.

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