PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — CBS2 is continuing its back-to-school series looking at the new normal.

With most students in our area preparing for online classes, at least part time, many are still not connected.

But as CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Wednesday, there is a rush to change that.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Schools: The New Normal

In Paterson, there was a sigh of relief as more than a dozen students received Chromebook computers from Mayor Andre Sayegh just days before the start of school.

“I’m so happy to see my new teacher,” first grader Nova Davis said.

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Nova gasped as her grandmother opened the box. It was a welcome tool, after Paterson Public Schools had to provide physical worksheets to students in the spring because so many did not have access to technology for online learning.

“This means a lot because she can get back to her learning,” grandmother Frankie Davis said.

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Overseas shipping delays stalled the school district’s initial plans to provide computers for every child.

But now, laptops and other devices are getting in the hands of students, thanks to generous donations and, in this case, a partnership with Saint Luke’s Baptist Church.

“I don’t want the digital divide to create a diploma divide. That’s the last thing we need,” Sayegh said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

In June, New Jersey’s Department of Education estimated more than 358,000 students across the state did not have a device.

Since then, many districts have turned to online learning — at least part time — to start the school year.

They’re not alone.

“There are some shelters, for example, in New York City that don’t have sufficient cellular reception to get the iPads to work,” said Randi Levine of the group Advocates for Children.

The nonprofit is helping to bridge the digital divide for city students.

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The DOE has distributed more than 300,000 tablets. But from not being able to log on because of shoddy cell service to not having a device at all, not every student is prepared.

“Inequities in education existed well before the pandemic. But remote learning is only magnifying those inequities,” Levine said.

In Paterson, a burden was lifted for mother Aria Corbin Smith and her energetic 5-year-old.

“If you raise you hand, they’re going to call you and then you’ve gotta unmute yourself,” Zion Corbin Smith said.

Now, little Zion is so ready to get the school year started.

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