NEW TOWN — Amy Shane has two kids, a second-grade son and fourth-grade daughter at Little Tor Elementary, so when she got the $250 bill from the Clarkstown School District last week, she didn’t even know what children’s school- Issued Chromebook sparked the bill.
Then she recalled that in November her daughter, Daisy, said her Chromebook had been replaced at school after the 9-year-old showed her teacher there was a black line running across the screen . Shane said she was never notified.
The district was telling Shane she had 10 days to pay the bill.
As districts across the region have quickly shifted to remote learning amid pandemic shutdowns, they have adapted to a new form of education delivery with its own challenges.
“As we entered this fateful March (2020), we knew children needed to be educated,” said Sarah Chauncey, Superintendent and CEO of Rockland BOCES. “Everyone should have a device.”
With schools reopening, 1-on-1 technology has become the norm, and many students bring their devices with them daily.
After the pandemic, this is unlikely to be reversed.
Districts are investing millions of taxpayer dollars in devices and even giving them to kindergarteners.
While district leaders said families have been careful, they recognize that wear and tear and accidents will happen.
Who pays when the school device breaks down or needs to be repaired?
It depends on the district and the problem with the device.
Replacements differ by district
Clarkstown Schools Acting Superintendent Jeff Sobel said students are immediately given a replacement device if they report a problem.
“Students are never denied a functioning Chromebook or laptop,” Sobel said.
Next, Clarkstown Technical Service determines if the problem is caused by damage, which would result in a reimbursement fee.
“Like textbooks, team uniforms and other school property issued to students, it is the responsibility to care for and return the property to good working order, as learning support tools are funded by taxpayers,” Sobel said.
If a student’s device is stolen, a family must file a police report and the district will provide a new one.
The Technology Loaner Program form, completed by Clarkstown parents when handing out the devices, states: “If the laptop/Chromebook is damaged or lost, I understand that I am responsible for the appropriate costs for repair or replacement.”
Sobel added: “We will always work something out with the families who can’t afford to pay. The district ensures that all students have the technology and resources necessary to learn.
Person in charge of the disability department: Hochul accepts his new advocacy role
Winter of Restaurant Discontent: Omicron, the cold annihilates the gains of the summer
COVID in New York: As virus rates drop, what will Hochul do on mask mandates?
Sobel pointed out that invoices were only sent for a fraction of the school’s 7,800 devices. Repair/replacement costs have been assigned to 240 non-functional or defective devices for the 2021-2022 school year, he said, or 3.07% of the devices loaned this school year to students.
Other districts do not charge families for repairs.
In North Rockland, Superintendent of Schools Kris Felicello said his district replaces the device if there is a problem. “It’s not to the detriment of the child or the family.”
Felicello said his district built a buffer zone with extra devices for damaged, broken and lost devices and took precautions to stem the damage. The district has handed out cases or skins to help keep Chromebooks safe, for example, and teachers are talking about proper care. Young children do not have to bring them every day.
“The loss of some devices is part of the cost of doing business this way,” Felicello said. “Previously, children lost their textbooks.”
“If there’s something egregious where a child is deliberately damaging property, then that’s a different discussion,” Felicello said. But he said that’s often just a mistake. “I’ve broken Chromebooks.”
Felicello added that “we didn’t think it would be in our community’s interest to track down these families” whose children have returned broken devices. “Economic struggles are amplified during a pandemic.”
Clarkstown is considered a more affluent neighborhood than North Rockland; 2.7% of families in Clarkstown are eligible for SNAP benefits or food stamps, for example, compared to 19.5% of families in North Rockland.
Clarkstown families hit by the bills say the district is wrong to assume they can pay.
Ossining Superintendent Ray Sanchez said reimbursement for broken appliances was not part of the conversation in his district.
He and leaders from other districts said younger kids who might have trouble maintaining the device are getting older and using refurbished models.
Still, the devices sometimes get damaged, Sanchez said.
A new feed for device patches
The changing school technology landscape has resulted in a shift in workload for school technology staff.
At Rockland BOCES, the technology team trains parents on computer setup, establishes Wi-Fi hotspots for families, and repairs numerous Chromebooks and iPads that have been dropped, knocked over, or suffered myriad abuses. other incidents, as well as ordinary wear and tear. and-tear.
BOCES Technology Equipment Specialist Luis Rivera has helped many Spanish-speaking families install and repair devices, but it’s been a learning curve. Speaking English and Spanish is one thing, but technology can be, in some ways, a whole other language.
BOCES network administrator Paul Martorelli said the growing workload actually presented an educational opportunity. Students in the BOCES Career & Technical Education program could take on some of the repairs and learn valuable job skills.
Thomas O’Reilly, a senior at Suffern High School, said the hands-on experience was beneficial. The 18-year-old plans to study computer engineering technology and is now awaiting university acceptance letters.
“We’re preparing these students with valuable workplace skills,” said CETC teacher Joe Vogel.
Chauncey, the superintendent of BOCES, said the families took care of the technology. Even when there are problems, she says, it’s up to the district to make sure every child has a device, with wi-fi access. “We have to start with the issue of fairness.”
While some districts across the country have devices insured or have offered device insurance to parents for a nominal fee, most districts in the Lower Hudson Valley ignore this.
Felicello from North Rockland pointed out that the lifespan of a Chromebook is only a few years.
Sanchez said his district does not insure the device or charge families for any damages, nor does he see the need for it.
“Our students and our families understand and have paid close attention to this,” Sanchez said. “They know it’s something they have to deal with.”
Nancy Cutler writes at People & Policy. Click here for his latest stories. Follow her on Twitter at @nancyrockland.