School officials in Nashua want to get Chromebooks into the hands of students in case remote learning must continue in some form when schools reopen in the fall.
“How many Chromebooks we need to move forward for next year is all contingent on the (reopening) model we select,” said Superintendent Jahmal Mosley.
According to Mosley, Chromebooks for every student in the district would run upward of $800,000. But, he said, additional expenses must be factored in, as well.
The cost of the Chromebooks, to date, has varied for the district; a new price has not yet been negotiated, according to school officials.
When school buildings closed in March, the district allowed 1,770 students to borrow Chromebooks from the schools, said Mosley. Not all of those computers have been returned, he said.
“We do not have enough Chromebooks for every student,” said Raymond Guarino, member of the Nashua Board of Education. He said some families with two or three children were borrowing one computer from the district.
Last week, school officials were informed that the National Collaborative for Digital Equity donated 60 new Chromebooks to the district — a donation intended to support the delivery of remote learning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We can’t get enough Chromebooks, so I appreciate it. I think we all appreciate it,” Mosley said.
The school district budget includes $700,000 for new Chromebooks, according to Jessica Brown, school board member. She questioned how the district intends on getting technology into the hands of every student.
“If we are really thinking about any kind of hybrid (reopening) model, I think it is going to be really important to give all students in our district an option to have access to a Chromebook if they choose to take one,” said Brown. She stressed that computers will be crucial if remote learning or a hybrid approach — with partial remote learning and partial in-classroom instruction — is implemented in the coming school year.
What’s not clear yet, said Mosley, is the number of Chromebooks necessary.
There are more than 11,000 students in the Nashua School District.
Managing all of the new computers will be challenging, Mosley said. Help desk software would need to be set up throughout the city and infrastructure would need to be in place to assist students with various technology needs, he said.
Mosley acknowledged that not all Nashua families are computer-savvy, and will need guidance with internet connectivity, online curriculum and how to use Google Classroom and other programs.
Families that use English as a second language may also need additional help with their computer infrastructure, added Mosley.
“I know there will be a lot of logistics involved in making sure we get the right technology into the hands of kids,” said Brown. Still, she said it is essential that school officials discuss the various technology options now instead of waiting until August.
Paula Johnson, school board member, said she wants more details on the number of Chromebooks that have not yet been returned by city students. Understanding that some are being used for summer school, Johnson said the computers were paid for with taxpayer money and need to be returned.
Johnson requested a full report on the distribution of Chromebooks, as well as information on how the computers were utilized during remote learning, whether they were helpful and how the students adapted.
“I want to know where the district stands on this,” said Johnson. A lot of money was spent on remote learning, she said, and it is important to assess its success before the start of the new school year when more decisions will need to be made.