Need for technology drives Broward County schools to distribute laptops among students

by Sarah Perez and Kiera Cerino

OVERCOMING COVID-19: West Broward teachers Waynewright Malcolm, Javier Diaz and Amina Mohammed are volunteering in distributing laptops to students who are in need of them. Due to the disruption of learning from COVID-19, Broward County schools adapted by implementing digital learning for students.

Because of the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, people have been ordered to stay at home and abide by the stay-at-home order enforced by the state. As a result, schools have turned to distance learning in order to continue the school year. The need for technology in households has skyrocketed for students because of the obligation to work at home.

In order to assist the households who are in need of computers, West Broward, along with other schools across Broward County, hosted days where they distributed laptops to students who are in need of one or more computers. On Mar. 20 and 28, parents were able to drive to West Broward and pick up computers for their children.

“We are distributing these computers in order to ensure that all students are granted the opportunity to have a working laptop at home,” said assistant principal Diana Lynn Hurtado. “The only way that learning will continue is if a student has computer access.”

Before the scheduled days of distribution, teachers and staff had volunteered to plan for the days of distribution by gathering the necessary amount of computers. In preparation, teachers and staff arranged 650 computers to give to students for the days to come. The days of preparation were Mar. 18, 19 and 27.

“We were able to prepare around 650 laptops for our first distribution,” said chemistry teacher Michelle Wilson. “We then had a second distribution for not only West Broward, but for any students in Broward County.”

In order to help the community be more prepared for distance learning, a second distribution was scheduled to provide laptops for the families of nearby elementary schools and Silver Trail Middle School. With the additional parents coming to collect materials, staff members from other schools stepped in to help with the distribution.

“Every school in the district distributed computers. On the first day, every school in the district, from high schools, middle schools and elementary schools, were all distributing computers,” said math teacher Waynewright Malcolm.  “On the second day, they just had high schools and middle schools. So all the elementary schools went to the high school that was their feeder school.”

There were multiple precautions taken in order to protect both parents and teachers from the virus. The number of parents who were able to enter West Broward was limited to six at a time. Parents would have to wait outside of the school’s entrance with a number that was distributed to parents as they arrived at the student parking lot.

“We only allowed a few people out of the cars at a time to form a line where they were to stand 8 feet apart,” said math teacher Kimberlee Krueger. “Blue painters tape was used to mark 8 feet.”

PROTECTION FROM THE VIRUS: West Broward’s teachers and staff are signing in parents to pick up a school-issued laptop. In order to protect people from COVID-19, administrators only allowed two parents at a time to enter the building.

As a means of organization, there were multiple ‘stations’ put in place, one station for each action. Station one was to check the parent’s identification and if they were an emergency contact towards the student. Station two led parents to sign the appropriate paperwork and station three had staff members take pictures of the paperwork.

“We developed a very efficient, smooth process on the first day,” Malcolm said. “It was a big effort, but all the teachers pitched in and it was good camaraderie.”

Other means of protection were implemented as well. Abundant amounts of hand sanitizer were at every station and teachers and staff were equipped with masks and gloves. Custodial staff would also continuously sanitize the workspace.

“We felt very well protected,” Malcolm said. “One of our top priorities was creating as safe of an environment as possible.”

During the days of distribution, over 700 computers were administered to students. Especially now, the need for computers in households is more important than ever. Students are required to have a computer at their disposal at all times due to distance learning.

“With it being the entire day and all the teachers are doing distance learning, it was critical for students to have their computers,” Krueger said. “These computers are needed as a form of communication between the teachers and the students.”