NEW YORK - Heading into the city's second week of remote learning, students in city shelters are still struggling to join their classmates online.
"We already have a disadvantage being here. That is just one more blow to our situation. Now I have to contemplate what do I do, my child is going to be behind even more," Toiyia, a resident of a city family shelter, told NY1.
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Toiyia and her sons Khalil, 18, and Tahir, 8, live in a family shelter operated by the nonprofit organization, Win. Like most of the city's homeless shelters, the units do not have Internet access. She asked to use only her first name to protect her family's privacy.
"Up to about three minutes ago, they couldn't get online. Their internet wasn't working," she said.
The boys have been using their cell phones as mobile hotspots to get their laptops online. But they've already hit the cellular data caps on their phones.
Their work had to wait until Toiyia got home from her job as a driver for Access-A-Ride.
"I'm rushing home, to give him my other phone, make dinner, check the homework," she said.
This family isn't alone. Win president and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn noted the organization is the city's largest provider of shelter to families with children.
"Do you know how many working devices we had from he Department of Education last week, the first week? Zero. Zero," Quinn said.
The Education Department said 12,000 iPads, with data plans already connected to the Internet, would be delivered by the end of Monday, reaching all students in shelters enrolled in traditional public schools. charter school students, like Toiyia's children, will begin receiving them as early as Tuesday.
"The best case scenario honestly is children have lost a week or a week and a half, because we need prep time with the moms," she said.
"Can you see his computer?" Toiyia asked over a video chat with a reporter.
Even once they're online, homeless families face challenges. Toiyia says she's not too tech-savvy, but showed NY1 her youngest son's set-up.
"Honestly I don't know how this is going to be able to work out," she said.
Tahir's not used to typing and has more experience with Legos than laptops.
"It's kind of tough," he said.
It's tough on Toiyia, too, who wakes up at 2:30 in the morning to work the early shift so she can spend afternoons with her children.
"It's hard. It's very hard, but you know as a mom, you can't give up, you can't not do anything. You just have to dig down deeper and just do it," she added.