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No computer? Pasco schools will hand them out for distance learning.

‘We want all of our students to have the ability to go online and continue learning,' superintendent Kurt Browning says.
Pasco County schools plan to take computers out of their buildings and make them available to families who need them for distance learning.
Pasco County schools plan to take computers out of their buildings and make them available to families who need them for distance learning.

Pasco County families needing computers for their children’s online learning soon will get a hand from the school district.

Those with no devices at all in their homes, and those with more children than available technology, will get first priority. The sign-out is scheduled to take place on March 30, a day before distance learning is to begin.

“This will take place at the school your student attends,” superintendent Kurt Browning said in a YouTube video posted Thursday on the district’s website. “We will do everything we can to provide appropriate to families who don’t have them.”

With the likelihood growing that schools would remain closed for longer than just two weeks, the district surveyed parents a week ago to determine how widespread the demand might be for service. The more than 25,000 responses indicated that only about 10 to 15 percent of students would require help either with a device, internet access or both.

District officials said they should be able to meet much of the need.

“The decision to cancel things like state testing through the end of the year allowed us to feel confident we could deploy a significant amount of our equipment,” said Pasco eSchool principal JoAnne Glenn, who is helping coordinate the district’s distance learning effort.

Related: Florida scraps K-12 testing, students to stay home through April 15, DeSantis says

Most years, spring testing wraps up school computers for months, making them unavailable for instructional use.

The district decided to distribute the computers from each individual school to help maintain social distancing efforts, a method to keep the coronavirus at bay. Also, officials did not want families to have to travel too far for the service.

For those students and parents who cannot get to schools at all to pick up a computer, “we are trying to problem-solve options for that, as well,” Glenn said.

One possibility is to put devices on the buses that will be driving through communities as part of an extended feeding plan, which also begins March 30. District leaders are assessing the different options.

Leading and learning director Lea Mitchell noted that families without devices might not have been able to respond to surveys designed to measure the need. She said a limited number of staff will be working inside schools beginning next week, in part to field phone calls from parents wanting to know what to do when classes do not resume.

That will offer yet another way to make sure the district has made itself accessible for supporting these families, said Mitchell, who also is working on the distance learning plan.

To qualify for a computer, a family will have to demonstrate that its children attend the school where they are requesting equipment. Parents also will have to sign an agreement about the terms of use and return of the technology.

The district plans to provide more information about the computer borrowing initiative in the coming days, along with added information about how the instruction will take place.

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