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GCS puts out call for donated devices

GCS is seeking computer devices for remote learning during COVID-19.
Photo by Ivan Saul Cutler/Carolina Peacemaker.

Guilford County Schools’ leaders are asking the community to donate electronic devices or cash to aid in virtual learning for 5,200 students across the county.

The district is focusing on Kindergarteners and first graders as a priority, in which 12,000 additional devices have already been distributed.

Guilford County students began online instruction Monday, Aug. 17 and will start live online instruction on September 8.

“Every day, those 5,000 students are missing instruction with their teachers,” said Dr. Whitney Oakley, GCS Chief Academic Officer. “Learning loss is real and learning loss for students who were facing inequities before the pandemic is even greater for students who were not facing inequities before the pandemic.”

Donated devices must have the ability to connect to the internet with a working camera, microphone and charger to be accepted. Devices can be dropped off at 712 N. Eugene Street in Greensboro and at 900 English Road in High Point.

The Guilford Education Alliance (GEA) purchased 8,100 devices for the district last school year, when schools were forced to shut down in March due to COVID-19 concerns. District leaders say the best electronic devices only have about a three-year life span, and some of the devices GCS already owns are more than five-years-old. At the end of the 2019-2020 school year, some devices were returned by graduating seniors, other students retained theirs for the following school year, and some had to be discarded and replaced.

Faced with an international shipping delay, GCS leaders say there are more than 70,000 devices on back order. The earliest they expect to get the devices is late November.

Winston McGregor, a GCS Board of Education member and GEA’s executive director, noted that GCS has to go through certain processes to order devices that the GEA doesn’t have to. GEA is working on raising funds in order to quickly purchase devices from local retailers like Walmart and Best Buy. GEA says a $350 donation is enough to purchase one Chromebook.

“There’s a need to create accountability and make sure students are doing their work,” said McGregor. “Loss of learning is a compounding issue. The kids pay for that, our whole community pays for that. COVID has forced us to reimagine how our students learn.”

As of now, there is no penalty to students for not having a device. Students will still have access to pre-recorded lessons and have one week to submit assignments.

In addition to providing computers, the school district is deploying 125 smart buses in areas throughout the county and opening 13 learning centers on August 31, all to improve internet access for students.

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