As New School Year Begins Remotely, Some Districts Face Device Shortages

As New School Year Begins Remotely, Some Districts Face Device Shortages

4:15pm Aug 17, 2020
Guilford County Schools and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools will use remote learning for the first nine weeks. EMILY MCCORD/WFDD

School systems have been distributing Chromebooks, iPads, and other devices over the past week. But many say there are not enough for every educator or child, and some households may have to share for now. 

Superintendent Sharon Contreras says the district is doing everything it can to support families during remote learning. 

“One of the biggest challenges we face in expanding remote learning has been the lack of devices for all students,” she says.

Guilford County Schools ordered nearly 79,000 devices at the end of July. But it could take a number of weeks to get those into the hands of students. Part of the problem is the uptick in demand, as more schools are placing orders for devices at a time when companies are rebounding from production delays related to the pandemic. 

Funding is another issue. Many districts say they were short on devices before buildings were closed in the spring.

Starting August 31, GCS students who face internet and technology challenges can participate in remote learning at 13 school sites. Contreras says they are strategically locating them in areas where Census Bureau data indicates more than two-thirds of households are without broadband connectivity. The district is also deploying 125 smart buses in the community to improve access to the internet in areas that are lacking.

In Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, school leaders have distributed more than 30,000 Chromebooks and 4,000 Wi-Fi hotspots.

District spokesman Brent Campbell says there is currently a waiting list for hotspots. School officials are working to get some of them back from families who received them in the spring, but no longer need them.

The school system plans to launch community learning centers next week, which will provide internet connectivity and other support for students during remote learning.

For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus in North Carolina, visit our Live Updates blog here. WFDD wants to hear your stories — connect with us and let us know what you’re experiencing.

*Follow WFDD’s Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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