Problems With Department Of Education-Issued Equipment, Shoddy Wi-FI In Homeless Shelters Causing Complications

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Homeless families say they’re facing an uphill battle to get their kids online for school, and the problems leave them worried they could lose their kids.

CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez spoke with a mother who said the city was punishing her for issues beyond her control.

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has more on the city’s response, and what’s being done to help.

Single mother of two Katlyn Winegardner says last week she got a frightening call from a Department of Education truancy officer that left her fearing she could lose her kids.

“I have nightmares of my kids being snatched from me,” she said.

Schools: The New Normal

Katlyn says since school began a month ago, her 9-year-old daughter Maqenzie and 5-year-old son Noah have been unable to log on to their remote learning classes because their Department of Education-issued iPads weren’t working, and the Wi-Fi in the homeless shelter where they’re living is spotty.

“It just made me feel sad because I couldn’t be a part of it,” Maqenzie said.

Katlyn says she contacted the school every day to report her tech issues.

“They pretty much kept saying ‘Fingers crossed, you’re not the only person going through it,'” she said.

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Her children remained offline until last week, after guidance from the Legal Aid Society helped get the family replacement devices that worked.

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An attendance officer called Katlyn on the first day they logged on. Other families struggling to connect say school administrators have threatened to make calls to the Administration for Children’s Services.

“It was scary, because we have no control over what was going on. We were being punished because the DOE didn’t have their stuff together,” Katlyn said.

“We have sent out guidance last spring. We’ve also updated that guidance this semester to school sites, making it very clear that technology issues should not be one of the reasons for a report to ACS,” said Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to make sure all shelters have broadband Wi-Fi.

Susan Horwitz, an attorney from the Legal Aid Society, hopes the city keeps its word so all children get the education they deserve.

“I am thrilled that finally someone is paying attention at the highest level to the need for this,” she said.

Katlyn says she worries about countless children who are falling behind as they continue to struggle to connect.

The mayor and schools chancellor are reminding families to call 311 so the DOE can address the problems.

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