Jersey City superintendent says schools have enough laptops for students, but some parents say they’re still in the dark

Destiny Viator

The Jersey City School district says it now has enough Chromebook laptops to outfit students without computer access, but a breakdown in communication between parents and schools appears to be leaving some kids offline. © Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal/nj.com/TNS Parents line up to pick up workbooks, textbooks […]

The Jersey City School district says it now has enough Chromebook laptops to outfit students without computer access, but a breakdown in communication between parents and schools appears to be leaving some kids offline.



a group of people standing in front of a building: Parents line up to pick up workbooks, textbooks and school supplies for their children at School 30 in Jersey City on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.


© Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal/nj.com/TNS
Parents line up to pick up workbooks, textbooks and school supplies for their children at School 30 in Jersey City on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.

Superintendent Franklin Walker said it’s unclear how many of the district’s approximately 30,000 students are still without computer access, but the school system has enough devices to ensure every student can participate in remote learning.



a group of people looking at a laptop: Librarian Christine Szczepanski and guidance counselor Cathie Garofalo, at left, help parents Laura Ramirez, with her fifth-grade daughter, Marisabel, and Wanda Delos Santos, as they pick up Chromebook laptops and internet hotspot devices for their children at School 30 in Jersey City on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.


© Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal/nj.com/TNS
Librarian Christine Szczepanski and guidance counselor Cathie Garofalo, at left, help parents Laura Ramirez, with her fifth-grade daughter, Marisabel, and Wanda Delos Santos, as they pick up Chromebook laptops and internet hotspot devices for their children at School 30 in Jersey City on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.

Deputy Superintendent Norma Fernandez said the district had 5,500 laptops on hand as of Thursday, but nearly 800 students have still not signed into the digital classrooms since classes started that day.

“There should be no need for anyone not having a Chromebook at this point and time. It is just a question, if they don’t have it, to contact the school,” Walker said. “There is some communication glitches in this situation. I understand that it is not going to be perfect, but we don’t expect to be perfect. It’s a new situation but we are doing the best we can in terms to resolve those issues.”



a group of people looking at a phone: Karen Mendez, with her fourth-grade daughter, Crismerly, and one-year-old son, George, picks up a book bag which contains a Chromebook laptop and internet hotspot device for Crismerly at School 30 in Jersey City on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.


© Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal/nj.com/TNS
Karen Mendez, with her fourth-grade daughter, Crismerly, and one-year-old son, George, picks up a book bag which contains a Chromebook laptop and internet hotspot device for Crismerly at School 30 in Jersey City on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.

But some parents say it hasn’t been that simple.

Amanda Nesbihal said her 9-year-old, a transfer at School 39, hasn’t been able to log into the remote environment using her smartphone. She’s gotten nowhere after calling the school for two days with no one answering. Her child received a Chromebook last year but reported that she was given a computer that didn’t work.

Amin Feknous has been trying to get a Chromebook for his 6-year-old son at School 11, but was told to wait for another shipment. He said they have a laptop at home, but his wife uses it for her own education, and they can’t afford another.

“I called (the) district and school and they say they don’t have (one),” Feknous said. “You know every parent does the best for their kids.

“I can’t let my son fall behind, but with a Chromebook it will be better,” he added.

Hudson County’s largest school district appears to taking a two-pronged approach to tackle the digital divide. The first challenge, which Walker says the district has met, is ensuring every student has computer access — whether it’s a family computer or district-issued device.

The second, more ambitious task the Jersey City Public Schools is undertaking, is putting a Chromebook into the hands of every student.

To achieve that goal, the district is awaiting some 10,000 Chromebooks, some of which Walker said are expected to arrive in October.

In the meantime, Jersey City Education Association President Ron Greco said some teachers of students without computer access are working to identify friends or relatives who can share their devices, but it only worked in a few instances. He said a lot of teachers are putting together packets for their students for this week.

A concerned Jersey City teacher of over 25 years, who asked to not be named, had two students without devices for the first few days of school before they received their Chromebooks. The students used a cellphone to attend their digital class via Zoom.

“I gave them extended time to get the work done because I won’t hold it against them that they don’t have a device,” the teacher said. “What we did in the spring when students were sharing devices … we allowed the students to ask questions via ClassDojo or Google Classroom and we extended time limits, so if they needed assistance, we were available pretty much 24/7.”

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©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

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