During last spring’s digital learning, GCPS checked out 9,765 Chromebooks to families who had a demonstrated need. As part of our back-to-school planning, the district asked families about their access to devices and reliable internet. This information is allowing us to expand our work to improve access to students. Based on the parent surveys and data from last spring, we estimate a need for approximately 45,000 Chromebooks for families. We currently have 48,000 available and are working to increase that number. That said, our first priority is to check these available devices out to families based on need. Once we have met those needs, we will expand beyond that. We also are awaiting the delivery of additional Chromebooks as there are supply chain issues. Below are a few answers to some commonly asked questions regarding access to technology.
If I am a parent of children in need of a device or internet access, how do I get them from GCPS?
Parents should contact their local school to secure a device.
How much money is currently being spent to make sure there are enough devices and hotspots to be lent to students who do not otherwise have access?
In July, the Board of Education approved a $1.4 million purchase of Chromebooks to augment its existing supply. This is in addition to local school funds that have been used to purchase Chromebooks to close the need gap. In addition, the district has spent $4.3 million to procure hotspots with service for 12 calendar months.
What is the need and how many of the devices and hotspots are available?
Based on surveys done in the spring and over the summer, the district estimates a need of approximately 45,000 Chromebooks for families. In addition, based on families that reported, GCPS estimates 20,528 students have little to no access to reliable high-speed internet. GCPS will have 48,000 Chromebooks available for checkout to families based on need and will have approximately 19,000 hotspots. (The estimated hotspot need numbers are based on individual students while a single hotspot should cover an entire household. As such, we believe there are currently enough hotspots to meet the estimated need.)
If there happens to be more needs than supply, then what is the plan to make sure there are enough to go around by the time school starts?
We believe our estimates will be close to the actual need as they were triangulated from parent self-reporting and student access data from Spring 2020, but recognizing that the need may grow over time due to the evolving economic situation and family hardship, GCPS is activating a three-pronged strategy:
- Continued Device/Hotspot Funds Sourcing: GCPS is continuing to source additional grants and other funding opportunities to continue to build up the device/hotspot availability for families.
- Strategic Community Partnerships: GCPS is strategically engaging and partnering with local community organizations across the county that have access to additional funds and device supplies and are providing them to families.
- Pilots of Wi-Fi Access: GCPS is in the process of procuring and piloting a limited number of Wi-Fi hubs that will enable otherwise uncovered families to access the Internet at specific sites in addition to existing, publicly available free Wi-Fi locations.
Is GCPS prepared to handle the massive increase in network traffic when it starts digitally?
Our system has been load tested to ensure stability in network traffic. In addition, the district has been in communication with our providers (i.e., D2L) to ensure their systems will be able to handle the increase load on their systems.