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Polk County prepares 60K devices for virtual learning to begin Thursday


POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – As administrators prepare to distribute 60,000 devices to students in Polk County, leaders fear it won’t be enough to fill the need of Polk County’s 105,000 students.

“We’re asking that people don’t take multiple devices,” said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. “It’s not going to be enough, but we’re going to do everything we can to get a device in the hands of those that need it the most right now.”

On Monday, school employees were sanitizing tablets and updating laptop software ahead of the mass distribution of devices scheduled for Wednesday.

Virtual learning in Polk County begins Thursday.

Schools are closed across Florida through May 1 to stop the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.

As of Monday evening, there were 63 confirmed cases in Polk County.

“We’re going to need probably about 450-500 computers. We have 530 so we’re in good shape,” said Todd Bennett, principal of Westwood Middle School in Winter Haven. “We’re going to have to go to houses. We’re going to have to hand-deliver and do some very unique things that we normally don’t have to do but that’s part of the flexibility of what we’re doing.”

According to Superintendent Byrd, school faculty members are calling parents to find out who has internet access.

Schools will be providing information to parents about internet offers and other options which you can more about here.

Teachers will work closely with students on their specific needs.

“Teachers now know their students. They know what to do and how to meet their needs better than us just saying ‘we’re gonna have one way of servicing our kids.’ They know how to do that. So for some parents that might not have the capability, it might be they do the work, take a picture and send it via their phone and we want to give them that option,” said Superintendent Byrd.

Given the size of the county, the school district is aware bandwidth could be a problem.

“We won’t know that until we get them all on. We’re already thinking about – how do we address that concern if that happens?” asked Byrd.

Byrd said teachers will be able to decide how they want to conduct their classes.

“Some of this will be done in a blended model where you may have some online and some paper-based when it comes to our elementary students as well as our high school students and our secondary students, we know a lot of them are already online users,” she said.

Students and parents can pick up devices at drive-thru sites at their school on Wednesday. Students must bring their ID’s.

For more information on the school district’s plans, visit the school’s website here.

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