Digital Equity Team Makes Progress in Closing the Digital Divide

Monterey County Office of Education

Leadership, Support and Service to Prepare All Students for Success

Dr. Deneen Guss, County Superintendent of Schools

Digital Equity Team Makes Progress in Closing the Digital Divide

Digital Equity Team Makes Progress in Closing the Digital Divide

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Contact Jessica Hull, Communications and Public Relations Officer - 831.784.4245 (o), 209.679.4858 (c)

Salinas, Calif. – At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Monterey County Office of Education formed a Digital Equity (DEQ) Task Force to address increased technology needs placed upon students to implement and continue distance learning. The mission of DEQ is to, “Ensure every student in Monterey County has the ability to participate in high quality online distance learning by providing access to the devices and connectivity needed for success.”

After only a few short weeks, MCOE is thrilled to share the progress made in closing the digital divide in two categories: access to devices (laptops, computers, tablets, etc.); and connection to the internet.

Through surveys, MCOE determined there are thousands of students across school districts that do not have access to appropriate devices or an adequate connection to the internet. In many cases it is both. MCOE and school districts have rapidly addressed these challenges from the beginning of the school and college closures. Districts have already deployed all resources available to place devices in the hands of the students, but it is not enough to close the gap. In an effort to close the gap, MCOE reached out to the community for assistance.

At the time of school closures it was determined there were over 6,000 students from Monterey County schools and districts who did not have access to a device in the home and 11,279 students who did not have connectivity to the internet in the home. MCOE also is working with local colleges to determine households where there are college students along with K-12 students who need access to the internet where connectivity solutions can overlap. There are 77,387 public school K-12 students in Monterey County.

Community leaders have galvanized to show their support for closing the digital divide in Monterey County.

MCOE wishes to recognize and thank Bruce Taylor, CEO of Taylor Farms, for providing a donation of $303,875 to purchase many of the much needed devices. “Bruce is a man of action and has challenged MCOE to get the devices into the hands of students as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Deneen Guss, Monterey County Superintendent of Schools.

“The team at Taylor Farms is pleased to be able to assist Dr. Guss and MCOE in this important initiative to enable access for all students to online learning,” said Bruce Taylor.

MCOE also thanks the Monterey Peninsula Foundation for their donation of $85,000.

“While COVID-19 has been a challenge to all, it has provided a remarkable opportunity for the community to resolve the digital divide” said Steve John, CEO and Tournament Director of Monterey Peninsula Foundation. “We’re encouraged by the leadership of individuals and the Monterey County Office of Education to ensure every child has access to education in all its forms – including distance learning mandated by the pandemic.”

Each dollar added to this cause makes a significant impact on closing the digital divide. MCOE is thankful to all donors. Additional donations and commitment of resources are as follows:

  • Claire Giannini Fund: $25,000
  • Sally Hughes Church Foundation: $10,000
  • Tanimura Family Foundation: $10,000
  • Anonymous Donors: $26,000

MCOE has a number of grant proposals pending with additional organizations and foundations to secure additional needed funds. The efforts to attempt to close the digital divide amount to over $3 million.

“We are grateful beyond words for the generosity of Bruce Taylor and Taylor Farms and all of the donors,” said Dr. Deneen Guss, Monterey County Superintendent of Schools. “These donations propel our efforts forward to start purchasing devices and exploring options for connectivity for our Monterey County students.”

The State of California through the California Department of Education has also launched efforts to address the digital divide. There are early commitments of resources from many vendors and individuals, but it is unclear how and when these resources will find their way to school districts. To date 335 devices have also been donated by Microsoft and are now being distributed to districts. Approximately $310,000 worth of device orders are currently in process. An additional 200 MiFi devices have been procured to add to the unit already deployed in the field. Technology staff members have worked to extend WiFi networks at appropriate school site locations to allow parking lot access to stable high speed internet services.

Additionally, there are resources coming from the federal government through the CARES Act, but is unclear when these resources will find their way to local districts. The initial allocation shows that five school districts will not receive any allocation from the CARES Act due to federal designation of the district.

What is absolutely clear is whatever resources are provided from the state or federal government, it will not be enough to meet the needs for Monterey County students. Those interested in donating to the Digital Equity Task Force’s efforts can contact Dr. Colleen Stanley at or 831.755.0308.