Boston Public Schools receive first shipment of Chromebooks for quarantined students

The $5 million cost will be largely covered by the Boston Resiliency Fund the mayor announced Monday


Chromebooks will be arriving by the truckload for Boston Public School children to facilitate online learning. Image: Kevin Jarrett/Flickr

Boston Herald
By Stefan Geller

Boston Public Schools received its first shipment of Chromebooks for homebound students on Tuesday, four days after Mayor Martin Walsh announced that schools in the city would close until the end of April to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

We have been really focused on the logistics, which has been a superhuman effort by a number of people,” said Charlene Briner, interim chief of staff in the BPS superintendent’s office. “The urgency of the situation has certainly accelerated our efforts.”

Following Walsh’s announcement, the administration ordered 20,000 Chromebooks, each costing approximately $250, in order to ensure that every student could transition into online learning, according to BPS Chief Technology Officer Mark Racine.

Two more shipments are expected to arrive on Wednesday and officials will begin distributing them to students on Thursday, Briner said, adding that the $5 million cost would be covered by existing budget resources and the “Boston Resiliency Fund” that the Mayor announced on Monday.

Once they get to us, we open up the boxes, we check to make sure they’re working, we configure them, we label them with student IDs and then we send them to the distribution center,” Briner said. “We’ve got it down to a science.”

Racine said the schools have also distributed the Chromebooks that they were already using in classrooms, and said that because they only connect to a web browser, students shouldn’t have any issues setting up and using them.

“You turn a Chromebook on and it’s ready to go in seven seconds,” Racine said. “In fact, little kids can log in with a unique image as their username and password. So even for the little kids we’ve made the login process secure and easy.”

In addition, Racine said that because Comcast recently announced that it’s offering customers two months of free internet, combined with the schools’ ability to provide a number of hotspots to families, he is confident that students won’t have to worry about lacking internet access.

However, despite reducing the factors that may hinder the students’ abilities to connect to the classes, Racine conceded that both they and their teachers will still have a whole new set of skills and strategies to learn in order to interact online.

Now that all of this is going to be done virtually, it’s going to be hard for a teacher to gauge how a child is doing,” Racine said. “It’s a very new challenge for our staff, but it is one we can overcome.”

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