JCS to Purchase 1,000 Chromebooks

JCS to Purchase 1,000 Chromebooks
Posted on 04/24/2020
CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Jefferson County Schools (JCS) recently evaluated the results of a survey designed to show the barriers some students face accessing the internet and technology. Teachers in Jefferson County have been delivering distance learning in digital and paper formats for the last six weeks, making this access critical. Students and families received the survey either through email or a telephone call. The survey had a nearly 40% response rate across the school system, typical for an internal survey. 
According to the results, 92% of students have access to the internet and 83% have access to high-speed internet. The remainder of the participants had little or no access to the internet and medium to slow connection. The survey also showed that the majority of students (52%) are using a laptop, desktop, or Chromebook as their primary device to access their work at home. The remaining 48% are using a tablet, cell phone, or similar device, which are considered inadequate.
To help meet the needs revealed in the survey, JCS is using newly provided flexibility in federal funding to procure 1,000 Chromebook computers for students identified as having the greatest immediate need for access to technology. Members of the Curriculum and Instruction Department worked with the Technology Department to create a comprehensive rubric for allocation. It will allow principals to determine which students have the greatest barriers to accessing the school system's robust digital instruction program. Superintendent Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson said it is not all based on economics, although that can play a role.
"Students suffering from homelessness, students in families for whom English is not their primary language, students in poverty, students with disabilities all have additional barriers in benefiting from the digital instructional program being offered," Dr. Gibson said. "We focus heavily on ensuring equitable access for our marginalized populations."
Dr. Gibson said staff took that into account while developing the rubric. 
The devices will remain the property of the school system, and all eligible families will be asked to sign a contract for the care and use of the Chromebooks. 
JCS will also work to address internet access by creating several "hot spots" at some school campuses. JCS will partner with the Jefferson County Sheriff and Charles Town Police Chief to develop safety protocols for accessing the internet services.  Families who use the hotspots can download or turn in assignments through the school system's secure network while following the CDC standards for social distancing. JCS Director of Technology Jennifer Rowan said they have features in place that will ensure students can use the network and Chromebooks safely.
"The benefit of these devices is that we have a system for central control. The devices have student filtering, we can remotely monitor all use of the laptops and shut them down completely to cease functioning if they are used inappropriately or misplaced."
Instructional resources for students and caregivers are also being made available. This unique funding opportunity fits in with the long-range plan to improve access to technology for all students in the county. The devices will be formatted and delivered directly to qualifying students in the next two to three weeks.

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