The Roswell Independent School District has received a donation to help supply students with Chromebooks, increase internet access and provide more than 250 Lego kits from an educational support organization.
The RISD school board voted Tuesday night to accept the donation of 350 fully configured Chromebooks along with a total of 262 Lego Education kits for kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms. The donation also includes a $4,000 stipend to subsidize the cost of internet access.
The donation came from First Book, a nonprofit founded in Washington D.C. in 1992 that provides books, educational resources and other essentials for students such as coats, snacks and hygiene kits to Title I schools.
The organization partnered with technology company CDW-G, Intel Corp. and Lego Education in providing the grants in response to school closures during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a press release on the First Book website.
Jennifer Cole, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, told the board the district was eligible for the grant due to its percentage of lower-income students making it a Title I district.
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The 350 Chromebooks will go where they are most needed, she said.
“Those will be allocated among the elementary schools as priority, with the lower of the low socioeconomic schools,” she said.
RISD has been distributing Chromebooks this week as students pick up their fall schedules, emphasizing the devices should go to those families in need of devices for online learning.
Access to the internet will still be an issue for some families, however. RISD officials had reported earlier this year 53% of student families did not have any access to the internet, but Superintendent Mike Gottlieb said at Tuesday’s meeting more parents are reporting access. A breakdown of those percentages by school is being prepared for board members.
The district continues to work on installing internet hot spots that will be accessible in the parking lots of each building.
Royce Braggs, director of technology, reported to the board the infrastructure for the connection spots should be in place by the end of the week.
“This will allow students to come and connect their school-owned devices. They can’t connect their own devices and anybody who doesn’t belong to the district can’t connect their device on there. That keeps our network secure,” Braggs said.
“If you remember our outbreak last year, you’d understand why,” he said.
Last September the district’s internet and phone systems failed in a spear-phishing attack. Spear-phishing is when someone attempts to solicit information by posing as a trustworthy person or organization through email. No student information was compromised, but the district had to examine all its devices for contamination, limiting access for students to web-based learning programs for days.
When the hot spots are ready, the district will post maps of where they can be accessed at each school on the district website and social media.
Gottlieb said more Chromebooks are on backorder due to the pandemic. They could arrive in December or possibly March, he said.
Teachers and school administrators have been contacting parents to help determine which students are most in need of devices, but there are still families the district has not been able to make contact with, Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb encouraged parents whose addresses or phone numbers have changed to contact their children’s schools to make sure they have updated contact information.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or firstname.lastname@example.org.