Pinellas schools distributing thousands of laptops for online learning during coronavirus pandemic

Pinellas County

ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – On Tuesday all 130 Pinellas County Schools began their process of checking out laptops and tablets to students for online learning. The devices are needed during the online education transition amidst coronavirus.

The district expects to check out between 15,000 and 20,000 devices over the two-day distribution period. Starting Monday students begin online learning and will eventually attend class via live cameras.

“This week our teachers are learning and playing with the platforms. I think we’re all a little bit nervous,” said Campbell Park Elementary Principal Kathleen Young Parker. “I think it’s like the beginning of the school year where you’re nervous and anxious. So…I think it will be fine.”

“The families that have come on campus have been so grateful,” said Parker. “The kids have been super excited.”

“It’s kind of freaking me out a little bit,” said parent Sade Mcneal. “I have a little anxiety about the situation. I never thought I would live through something like this.”

Students have conflicting emotions about the situation. “It breaks my heart,” said Lakewood High School Senior Dasia Simmons. “It’s messing everything up. We can’t walk the stage, we can’t be seniors, we can’t do a lot of stuff. I don’t really like that.”

“I’m happy!” said Lakewood High Sophomore Terrell Crosby. “I think it’s better. Better because students got their parents to help them”.

The school is partnered with more then 100 online services. “There’s 4 of 5 at every grade level that students are used to using on a regular basis. They’re going jump back into those, to watch videos online from teachers, post back to teachers, students are constantly chatting online so that’s not a new thing for them,” said Associate Superintendent Kevin Hendrick. “The biggest thing we’ll miss is sort of that live interaction, that’s why you see in the car lines, they’re excited to their teachers and principal because they’re excited about that interaction.”

The district released a statement ahead of the event that said in part:

While the district has a comprehensive digital learning plan in place to begin March 30, we realize not all students have the digital resources at home. In an effort to assure all students are academically successful, Pinellas County Schools will be distributing laptops and tablets to students who need one beginning Tuesday morning. We’ve asked families needing a digital device to stop by their child’s school on Tuesday or Wednesday. The hours will vary from school to school and depending on grade level. Principals will send each family today an email/school communication with details on how to check-out a device.”

Isabel Mascareñas, Pinellas Co. School District Public Information Officer

The district said Spectrum is offering free Wi-Fi to students and teachers for up to 60 days. To enroll, call 1-844-488-8395.

District officials also said all installation fees will be waived for new student and teacher households. Wi-Fi hotspots across Spectrum’s footprint will also be available for public use.

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