Connecticut school districts will soon begin receiving tens of thousands of laptops for students in need through the state’s Everybody Learns initiative.
Announced in July, the program seeks to end the state’s digital divide and improve online learning by providing families who do not have adequate access to devices and connectivity with new laptops and home high-speed internet.
“From the beginning of this pandemic, we knew that our state had an obligation to tens of thousands of school children around Connecticut to make sure they had the tools necessary to further their educations, as we didn’t know how long this public health emergency would last,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a news release Tuesday. “Now, our students are in a position where they have the tools necessary to participate and engage with this technology, and we can keep as many students as possible connected throughout this school year.”
In Tuesday’s update, the state said it was able to order more than 82,000 devices, including 20,474 Windows laptops, which will be begin to be delivered later this month, and 61,628 Chromebooks, which are expected to be delivered beginning in October. In a separate initiative through the former Partnership for Connecticut, the state had previously distributed about 60,000 Dell laptops to students in need.
The number of laptops ordered through the Everybody Learns initiative is roughly 30,000 more than what Lamont said he expected would be purchased when the introduced the program in July. The governor’s spokesman, Max Reiss, said that an initial survey conducted by the state in May estimated a need of about 50,000 laptops. But needs changed to about 82,000 laptops by the time the state set the computer orders, so it adjusted plans accordingly.
“This way, the full need is met and as many kids as possible have the technology they need to manage the potential of a second wave” of coronavirus infections, he said.
The state has also purchased about 60,000 at-home internet connections as wired broadband or personal hots pots for students. The connections include 12,774 Kajeet hot spots, all of which have been shipped to districts, as well as cable broadband for at least 40,000 students. Installation is expected to begin in the next two weeks.
Funding for the program, including the additional 30,000 laptops, came from money Connecticut received from the federal CARES Act, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. In July, the state planned to spend about $22 million on 50,000 laptops, $15 million on improving home internet connectivity for 60,000 students and $4.5 million on 200 public Wi-Fi hot spots across the state. Districts would also have access to a $2 million social-emotional learning program.
The cost of the additional laptops was not immediately available Tuesday.
According to data Lamont presented at press briefing last month, fewer than one-third of Connecticut’s schools planned to fully reopen for in-person learning. About 28% planned to reopen with a temporary hybrid schedule of online and in-person learning before transitioning to full in-person learning and 41% planned to operate on a hybrid model indefinitely. New Haven and Danbury schools began the year entirely online. Judging from district surveys this summer, about 76% of families across the state expected to send their children back to school, while the rest planned to keep children home for online learning.
“While remote learning can take many forms, the predominant approach going forward is trending toward technology-based, online options that require a device and internet connection,” state education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said, in a news release. “We are prioritizing access to needed technology and connectivity to narrow gaps in opportunities and outcomes between students with means and those without. Educational equity will be our continued focus as we work together to support districts and educators with effectively employing remote learning methods that meet the needs of every student.”
Amanda Blanco can be reached at [email protected].
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