Palm Beach County schools have 100,000 laptops to send home but they need more to be sure every student can log into lessons when classrooms while classrooms are shuttered.
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Palm Beach County schools have about a week to come up with at least 11,000 more computers if all of its roughly 190,000 students are to be able to log in to class from home when lessons resume March 31.
Schools have been closed since last week and this week is still on the books as spring break. But under state order, students won’t be back until mid-April at the earliest and their education must proceed online.
It is a pivot that state and local leaders hope will flatten the contagion curve of coronavirus. It’s also a Herculean tech task.
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The district said last week that it has more than 100,000 laptop computers it was preparing to distribute to students, but in a district in which three of every five students qualifies for a free or discounted lunch, thousands more are certain to no have computers or internet service, both of which will be needed to do lessons online.
To get an estimate of how many computers it needed, the district asked parents to fill out a survey — online.
About 116,000 parents responded, district spokeswoman Julie Houston-Trieste said last week.
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By Friday, the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County, the nonprofit which works with local businesses and charities to support the district’s mission, announced a Digital Device Drive, seeking donations either in cash or “gently used” devices. The goal: at least 11,000 more computers.
It is coordinating the effort with the district as well as Florida Power & LIght Co., Office Depot and Comcast.
“A donation of $275 will provide one device for a student,” foundation leaders said.
At the same time, the district was advising families without internet services to contact Comcast, a cable and internet provider that has offered Xfinity Wifi hotspots to anyone that needs them for free and is giving all customers unlimited data for no additional charge.
District leaders have said students will learn at home through a mix of computer programs, televised classes and online course materials prepared by their teachers. Those teachers likely will be working from home themselves.
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