Eau Claire Area School District facing technology shortage, finding solution

Eau Claire (WQOW) – Students in the Eau Claire Area School District will begin some level of virtual learning in under a week, but not every student will receive a new device to log into those online courses in time due to a technology shortage.

On Thursday, the district’s technology team was preparing devices to send to students.

However, not all of the district’s 11,600 children will have a new device to start the virtual school year.

“We found from our suppliers that there is a worldwide shortage of certain components.  As an example, screens for laptops, that has delayed some of the shipping and some of the manufacturing,” said James Martin, Technology Director for the Eau Claire Area School District.

When the school board approved the purchase of new devices for every student in the beginning of July, Martin said he quickly ordered iPads and Dell laptops, but said other school districts, businesses, and government entities had the same idea, which means supply couldn’t keep up with the national demand.

“This is not just a regional shortage issue or a state shortage.  This is a national and even a worldwide pressure point on all of our suppliers,” said Martin.

And one district parent is saying she’s frustrated by the lack of resources with the first day of school just around the corner.

“It concerns me seeing that we’ve had so many months to prepare for this.  I mean this is something we’ve seen coming since March, April, May.  I mean we’ve had several months to kind of sort this out.  And it especially worries me for the students who maybe don’t have the resources to get a hold of those,” said Aubri Neubert, whose daughter will attend kindergarten in the district this fall.

However, Martin said his team did find a temporary solution. They will digitally and physically clean and distribute older Chromebooks and HP laptops they already had. Some of them are four to seven years old.

“If we could get it to work and at least function, we knew that we would have something for those children to begin with on day one, recognizing that it’s not ideal, but we are going to work to provide them with something to begin,” said Martin.

School officials said the rest of the new devices are expected to arrive by the end of September and will be provided to the students who had to take an older device.

They’re also working on getting hotspot devices for the students, but they said those are on back order until mid-September.

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