LA PLATA, Md. – Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) is launching new technology initiatives to support enhanced student and staff access to distance learning. The initiatives will support distance-learning plans for the 2020-21 school year, and beyond.
Through funding CCPS received from a CARES Act technology grant, the school system will provide all high school students with a laptop. CCPS received nearly $3 million to support this initiative through the CARES Act, which was passed earlier this year and provides school districts with COVID-19 aid. With this funding, CCPS is purchasing nearly 9,000 laptops to distribute to high school students.
The laptops will support distance learning and include both a camera and microphone with speakers so students can see and hear their teachers. Charmaine Thompson, chief of technology for CCPS, said the goal of the initiatives is to bridge the technology gap of students from school to home.
“Due to COVID-19 aid, we have funded technology initiatives that we were previously not able to fully fund. These initiatives will enable us to help bridge the digital divide by providing equitable access to distance and hybrid learning opportunities for our students – bringing Charles County into 21st century teaching and learning. We are going 1:1 at the high school and middle school levels – our goal is to provide each student with a device at the secondary level,” Thompson added.
CCPS also has technology initiatives in place to support middle and elementary school students. CCPS received funding through the Maryland Technology Grant as part of the state Coronavirus Relief Fund. This funding, roughly $3 million, will support a one device per middle school student initiative. CCPS plans to provide about 7,000 new laptops to middle-school students. Additionally, this grant will support the purchase of new laptops for teachers and principals.
“This initiative will add an additional 16,000-17,000 laptop devices in our district on top of the 17,000 laptops we already have,” Thompson said.
CCPS will also redistribute some of its current laptop inventory to elementary school students. This includes collecting devices from secondary students who received devices earlier this school year, and reassigning them to elementary school students. “We will first target students who need a device at home,” Thompson said. Once students transition back to schools and centers, laptops will be collected and used for in-school instruction and testing.
CCPS also used additional state funding received by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) to purchase mobile hotpots for students who do not have internet access at home. Funding for this initiative totals about $232,000. The hotspots are manufactured by Kajeet and filter non-education websites, block harmful content and filter viruses.
High school principals will notify families of device pick-up times and dates in mid-August. Middle school laptops have been ordered, but CCPS does not yet have a firm delivery date. Principals will notify families when pick-up is available. CCPS is requiring students who received a laptop at the end of the 2019-20 school year to return those devices before the school system will issue a new device.
Elementary school student device distribution will be phased in on an as-needed basis. Requests will be accepted on AskCCPS, the help desk located on the CCPS website, starting in August.
The Board on July 14 voted to approve virtual learning for all students for the start of the 2020-21 school year. The technology initiatives will not only support complete virtual learning, but enhance technology access for all students once children return full time to schools and centers.