With schools closed in Massachusetts because of the pandemic, the Springfield School Department is distributing 10,000 laptops to students to use at home.
Six years ago, the Springfield Public Schools initiated a technology plan to provide each student in grades 3- 12 with their own laptop computer.
" We sacrificed in other areas, but invested heavily in technology," said Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick. "We thought it would be a worthwhile investment and it has proven to be."
A pilot program began recently that allowed students at about half the city’s schools to take the laptops home at night. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, school administrators had to find a way to get laptops into the homes of every student.
The laptops were wiped down and disinfected and parents could either register for a pickup at school, or arrange delivery. The last of the laptops were expected to be handed out Wednesday.
School officials said Comcast agreed to provide free internet access in homes with schoolchildren that were without broadband access and also set up WIFI hotspots.
" We've gone throughout the city and it is slow, but everyone can get on," said Warwick.
Warwick said teachers have adopted on the fly to online remote learning and have been staying in contact through social media and communications platforms with their students and the children’s parents.
"I am very proud of my staff ( and) the senior leadership team the way they set up and organized this because it is an enormous undertaking," said Warwick.
Schools closed in Springfield on March 16th for what was to be a two-week shutdown. But then Gov. Charlie Baker ordered all schools closed until May 4th, meaning a closure of seven weeks, if it is not extended again.
State education officials say schools will not have to make up the days lost to the coronavirus outbreak, but districts have the option of extending the school year into the summer.
Warwick said the Springfield schools are not likely to hold classes later than the currently scheduled last day of school which is June 19th.
" It would be a tremendous cost if we tried to go beyond that," said Warwick. Also, he said because most of the school buildings are not air conditioned school during the summer months "would not be optimal learning time."
Baker has said he hopes to try to salvage some of the remainder of the school year.
" We would be concerned about writing off the rest of the school year especially given how incredibly uneven the online process or the remote education process has been across the Commonwealth," Baker said. " If we do end up in a situation like that, we have to come up with a strategy to try to help all the kids who did not get what they are suppose to get over the last four or five months of this year."
In an unprecedented move, State Education Commissioner Jeff Riley last week cancel ed the spring round of MCAS tests.
But, Riley has yet to decide if he will waive or modify the MCAS standards required for a high school diploma.