Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Unified to lease Chromebooks, tablets for student use

From The Journal

Caitlin Sievers

RACINE — When Racine Unified closed its buildings in March due to the coronavirus, many of its students faced barriers to virtual learning because they didn’t have devices to use to complete their work.

While most families have a smartphone, many don’t have a laptop or tablet, or don’t have enough for each child and adult to work from home if necessary.

On Monday, the School Board approved the purchase of enough Chromebooks, Chrome tablets, Zbooks and laptops to supply students in grades 3-12 with devices.

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Tim Peltz, Unified’s chief of information, estimated that the devices would arrive by early September. He promised that students in grades 3-12 would have Chromebooks prior to the start of the school year.

The total cost of the devices, for a four-year lease, is about $3.9 million, and is to be paid with leftover funds from the district’s 2014 referendum as well as those collected through the referendum approved by voters on April 7.

Peltz had originally estimated the cost of the devices at $6.5 million and said the decreased price was due to “strong negotiating” from his team.

Teachers' unions, including Racine's, call to begin year with virtual learning

The district also has 500 internet hot spots on hand to supply to families who need access to WiFi for at-home learning. Peltz said that families checked out 100 such hot spots for summer school, but only about a quarter of them were being used.

The district also has identified a vendor that it can hire via a monthly contract to provide a 24-hour, 7-day-per-week tech support help desk for families, if needed.


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