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Single mom with 2 jobs struggles to pay for remote learning

De Ana Jimenez believes her daughter's education should be free and accessible.

KIOWA, Colo. — Switching to a system where all students are learning remotely at home instead of in school continues to be a big transition for districts across Colorado, and for some parents, like De Ana Jimenez, it is a more serious problem.

"I'm a medical assistant, single parent, I work hard -- two jobs," Jimenez said.

Jimenez and her daughter Kathryn live in a rural part of Elbert County near Kiowa. 

"Really quiet, I mean you can hear the birds chirping. You have beautiful sunsets that come up," Jimenez said.

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Along with its small-town charm, it also comes with its challenges. Her daughter is an eighth-grade student at Sierra Middle School in neighboring Douglas County. She says they choice-enrolled there for the extracurricular opportunities. But, the building was shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic, Jimenez said she felt shut out.

"My daughter lacks access to the internet or Wi-Fi," Jimenez said.

She says where they live is too remote for remote learning with weak cell phone surface and little money to purchase internet access.

"So, I just kind of feel like I'm left out in the dark and my daughter will be far behind whenever she returns back to school if we don't have internet access," Jimenez said.

Comcast is offering free internet service to lower-income families who qualify for federal aid.

"But, I make $100 too much to qualify for one of those services," Jimenez said.

Jimenez said she's tried to work with the school and the district, but so far no solutions. She said internet hotspot devices don't work at her house because of the bad cell service. So, she decided to buck up and get Comcast for internet access even though she's not sure she can afford it and also pay rent.

"Making sure ends meet has been a bit of a challenge," Jimenez said. "So, I'm hoping that we can survive."

Out of her two jobs, Jimenez said one of her jobs has been cut completely because of the pandemic and her hours are being reduced at her other job.

"I pulled the trigger because my daughter's education is that important to me," Jimenez said.

Paula Hans with Douglas County Schools said the district is still working with Jimenez to find a better solution. Across the district, Hans said DCSD has given out 800 computers and 75 internet hotspots while trying to make sure students have equitable resources. Even after that, Hans said the district has received around 200 requests for assistance during remote learning.

"I just try to stay as positive as I can saying somewhere along this way, there's a blessing in this and we're going to get through it," Jimenez said. "I don't know how. I don't know when, but we're going to struggle and we're going to make it."

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