Key points for parents and students:
Polk County Public Schools will begin distributing internet-accessible devices to families in need beginning on Wednesday, April 1.
Parents will receive device distribution instructions from administrators at their child’s school. Parents should not go to their child’s school until they receive notification from the school about days devices will be distributed and instructions for receiving a device.
Devices will be provided only to students enrolled in each school. Parents will need to present their child’s student ID to receive a device.
To ensure the school district continues to abide by social distancing restrictions, devices will be distributed on a drive-through basis and only during specific times to limit the number of people coming to campus.
“We are asking families for their patience and understanding as we navigate these very strange, foreign waters,” said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. “Several districts around Florida were already operating on a one-to-one student-to-device ratio. Polk County simply does not have the same resources. We need the community to work with us. If you have an internet-accessible device at home, please use it. If you have multiple children, please only take one district device and have them share. We need to stretch our inventory to meet the needs of as many of our students as we can.”
Earlier this month, Polk County Public Schools conducted an online and telephonic survey to gauge students’ access to both internet and internet-accessible devices. However, PCPS received responses from only about one-third of its parents and guardians. Schools are now reaching out to their families on an individual basis to better understand the true technology needs within the community.
As the technology picture becomes clearer, PCPS anticipates there could be more students in need than there are available devices. The school district is deploying 60,000 devices, and is working with local businesses who have expressed interest in donating computers. Still, Byrd reiterated, the need could exceed the available supply. “Again, we need the community to work with us. This is an unprecedented situation. We are doing everything we can for our students amid circumstances none of us could have ever imagined,” she said.
PCPS employees are working to make every possible device, including laptops and tablets, available to students. School network managers and school-based technology teams are pushing updates and installing filters. Bus drivers will be helping to disinfect devices per health guidelines issued by Hewlett-Packard. Schools administrators will communicate specific device distribution details to their families. High school seniors and eighth-graders, who need credits to graduate and be promoted to high school, respectively, are the school district’s first priority.
“These students need to matriculate to make room in our buildings for the students coming up behind them,” Byrd said. “In the case of our seniors, we know many of them already have plans to go to college, start a career or join the military. We need to support them in moving forward with the next stages of their lives.”
Along with the devices, PCPS will be distributing information from local internet service providers and assistance available from these providers during the coronavirus pandemic. Parents are encouraged to review the provided information and make the selection that best meets their student’s needs.
For additional information, parents and students should contact their schools.