Net access to assist high school program 

Capuchino High School is aiming to bridge the digital divide for low-income students who often don’t have access to computers or the Internet at home.

Kyle Brumbaugh, technology coordinator for Capuchino High and the San Mateo Union High School District, said that there is a significant number of Capuchino High students who aren’t yet as tech-savvy as many of their peers.

"I’m a very firm believer that informational literacy, incorporated with the regular math and reading skills, is essential in today’s age," Brumbaugh said. "It’s a foregone conclusion that any job our current students will have in the future will entail using some kind of technology. Some students already don’t have the capacity at home to compete in that environment."

The San Bruno City Council last week approved an agreement between Capuchino High, the city and Artichoke Joe’s Casino that would bring free high-speed Internet access to qualifying low-income students at home.

The issue is near and dear to Brumbaugh, who teaches elective courses that focus on the Internet and computers. To remedy the problem, he and Capuchino High Principal Ed Marquez approached thecity and asked for funding help for a Digital Bridge program, an effort Brumbaugh spearheaded.

Students who qualify for the free lunch program, another effort geared toward low-income students, also qualify for the Digital Bridge program. Marquez said that 177 students at Capuchino High are in the free lunch program, a figure that represents nearly 16 percent of students there.

"I wouldn’t say that number is unusually high," Marquez said. "But it shows that even here in San Mateo County, there are lots of people who are having trouble making ends meet."

The program is funded with private donations and some funds from the San Mateo County Regional Occupational Program. Students in a computer repair class at Capuchino High put their skills to work to refurbish the computers, which are then given away with software that can be downloaded for free.

City Manager Connie Jackson said that since the city operates San Bruno Cable TV and Internet service, it was in a good position to offer a discounted Internet package. Artichoke Joe’s will continually donate money to make up the difference and ensure it’s completely free for students, Jackson said.

Some 23 students in the ninth-grade global communications course have already received some of the refurbished computers.

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