Amid a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, the Chicago school system is buying 100,000 laptop computers so that more students will be able to switch to remote learning in the new year.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the additional laptops will bring the school district closer to one device per student and enable it to be ready for move to online classes for some campuses.
When the Covid-19 pandemic caused schools to halt in-person instruction in March 2020, more than100,000 Chicago Public Schools students didn’t have access to a computer or quality internet.
Through July 2021, the district bought 100,110 laptops and tablets to add to the district’s existing supply and help bridge that gap, according to district records.
And this week, district officials say they have bought another 100,000 devices for about $39 million. Asked why the district needed more laptops after the 100,000 brought in last year, spokeswoman Sylvia Barragan said the new batch was “in preparation for more classrooms to switch to remote learning if needed amid a possible Covid-19 surge in January.”
Students have complained since last year that some existing devices were slow almost to the point of being unusable. Even after the 2020 laptop purchases, not all students had a school-provided device — many families continued using their own computers at home. Lost or unreturned devices also have contributed to the need for more laptops, though officials didn’t say how many fell in that category.
More than 1,300 students and 790 adults in Chicago Public Schools reported positive tests last week, nearly tripling the previous week’s totals, which had been the school year’s highest to date. The number of students in quarantine hovered just under 10,000.