By next year, more than 60,000 students in Duval County Public Schools will have access to their own take-home laptops.
The district recently launched its “One-to-One” program, where students and parents sign off on an acknowledgement form, and then they are supplied with a Lenovo laptops they can use at home to complete assignments and read textbooks.
“It just evens the playing field across the entire district,” said Jim Culbert, DCPS’ Chief Information Officer. “That's one of my huge goals, is just make it so that every student has the same experience, no matter where they are.”
“Whether you're in Mandarin, or you're on the Northside, or on the Westside, when you're a student here, you have the same access to the resources as everyone else in history,” he said.
The process has already started, and Culbert said they’ve given out laptops at Mayport, Jefferson Davis, and Arlington Middle Schools, along with Sandalwood High School.
Next week, they’ll start supplying the laptops to Mandarin High School. The district hopes to complete the process by January.
Each laptop will have a tag attached to the student’s ID, so the principal of the school can track which device belongs to each student.
Although only secondary schools will get the new laptops, Culbert said this will also benefit elementary schoolers.
“We're going to take all those existing computers that are in the secondary schools, then we're going to push them down to the elementary schools that are in the feeder patterns...so everyone at the end of the day is going to gain from it,” Culbert said.
Apart from giving more computer access to students, Culbert said the change will make it easier for teachers and other DCPS staff to give technical support to students.
“Often people had computers at home that just couldn't run the software that we needed them to run, and then teachers often struggled with trying to do tech support for students,” Culbert said.
Since all of the computers will use Microsoft software, Culbert said fixing technical problems will be more efficient.
Students will be able to keep the laptops over longer school breaks, including the summers, as long as they don’t switch schools or enroll in another district.
Culbert also said the district has seen some students who lost internet access at home after parents experienced job loss or had to cut back expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, the district manages 8,000 internet hotspots.
Overall, Culbert said this will help propel the district forward in providing for its student body.
“We got propelled into COVID and moving online, and a lot of teachers that in the past necessarily didn't didn't gravitate toward this online environment have now kind of embraced it,” Culbert said.
Each school will communicate with parents when they are about to start receiving the computers. For more information on the program, visit the “One-to-One” program page on the district website.
Sky Lebron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.