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Laptop shortage an issue for WCSD in turning to distance learning

Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 9:50 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The staff and students in the Washoe County School District have had a memorable week.

“The students were excited to be in school,” said the district’s area superintendent Lauren Ford. “They were eager to learn, teachers were providing some great instruction to students, so I think (in person learning) was a happy place to be.”

With the Coronavirus pandemic weighing on people’s minds a different obstacle got in the way of school this week. Poor air quality forced administrators to cancel three of the first five school days.

Ford dove into the district’s policy on cancellations during a Zoom call Thursday afternoon.

“(District administrators) meet and get advice from different agencies and then we have a leadership meeting to make decisions (on cancellations).”

With many students going through a half in-person, half-distance learning schedule already many parents and students wonder why distance learning cannot become the norm when weather plays a factor.

“We can’t have part of our students - who are doing distance learning - take attendance and count themselves as present (while) some (do not),” Ford said. “We have to stick to the same calendar approved by the Nevada Department of Education.”

Scheduling is not the only issue Washoe County Schools deals with. Not every family is equipped to handle an all distance learning workload.

“We have to make sure that we have enough (mobile computer) systems set up to meet the needs of those who have computers and for those who do not,” Ford said of the district’s shortage of laptops.

When the air clears up and students and teachers are not testing positive for COVID-19, the district still needs 11,000 laptops to help prepare students for distance learning.

That shipment of laptops is not coming anytime soon.

“We have orders in place,” Ford said of the shortage. “We are working with Partners in Education and other places to ensure we have those devices for our students.”

KOLO 8 News Now was told Washoe County Schools will get 4,000 laptops in October. The rest of the shipment will come at a later date.

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