Broward Schools Pass Out Thousands of Laptops to Students for Distant Learning

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So now that Broward County’s turn for distance learning has arrived,  Broward County Public Schools started off with a bang, handing out more than 64,000 free laptops today to families who needed them, at every school in the district.

“Yes, the district’s campuses are closed, but instruction and learning is still open,” said Superintendent Robert Runcie.

The district has more than 90,000 laptops ready to go, so if the demand grows, Runcie says it can be met. Comcast is providing free connectivity to the needy as well.

“Online learning no matter how we perfect it will never replace the relationship that occurs between a student and a teacher and the opportunities that creates, so this is not what we consider an optimal scenario but it’s something that we have to work through,” said Runcie.

“It’s very helpful,” said Nidia Taylor, the mother of a sixth-grader. “I’m glad they’re doing this because the laptop that we have is very small and she can hardly see it so this is very helpful, right now you can’t buy anything so it’s great.”

Getting your kids into the process, making it a successful transition to learning at home with all the possible distractions, is not simple. The superintendent says everyone should expect speedbumps along the way, but parents we spoke to already are taking that into account.

“I’ve gotten a few phone calls from teachers saying they’re going to be recording their lessons, so they have to watch it and do some Canvas work,” said Luz Cruz, mother of three middle school students.

Canvas is the platform Broward Schools uses for distance learning. It’s been in use for three years so it’s not entirely strange to many students.

Miami-Dade Public Schools already has a week of distance learning under its belt, and today, superintendent Alberto Carvalho provided an update on how it’s going.

“We had close to 250,000 logins, that is both students and teachers logging in to our assets to connect with their teachers, with their colleagues or curricular resources from the comfort and safety of their homes,” Carvalho said.

Miami-Dade passed out free laptops last week and started online classes this week. Because Broward only had two and a half days of school scheduled for this week before schools were closed, the district opted to wait until today to hand out devices. That gives students and teachers next week, which is spring break, to get acclimated to the system before distance learning begins on March 30th.

The coronavirus pandemic has created this unprecedented situation in which entire school districts are using online learning. It’s the only option.

“I’m missing school, I think school’s better than staying at home because you get to be with a lot of people, not so isolated,” said sixth-grader Sara Taylor.

“It’s gonna be a challenge for many parents but they’re gonna have to work to make some arrangements, if it’s ever been true that it takes a village to raise a child, this is a moment for that village to come together,” Runcie said.

No one expects the process to be glitch-free, but because many students have distance learning experience, their biggest adjustment might be more social than academic.

Plenty of kids will be missing their friends and all the experiences which happen in school, and chances are, Runcie said, this is how it’s going to be for the rest of the school year.

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