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Hernando schools will issue computers to students who need them

The school district begins teaching students remotely in their homes on Monday.
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Hernando County School District Office in Brooksville

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BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County plans to call students back to class — from a distance — starting Monday, March 30. And if students are lacking the necessary technology, the district plans to help.

Hernando school teachers have been spending this week familiarizing themselves with a digital learning system, said Karen Jordan, the district’s public information officer, in an email on Monday. They’re training on the Canvas learning management system, which is used in the Florida Virtual School program.

“Teachers will learn how to create visual slides, engage in discussion with students, track their learning and how to evaluate student work,’’ Jordan said.

Schools were ordered closed until at least April 15 by Gov. Ron DeSantis in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The district sent out a phone survey March 19 and 20 to families of 23,000 students. Of those who responded, most have computers and internet access, Jordan said. However, school officials believe the need is greater than the survey results indicate. The district information technology team “is working to identify areas of our community with the greatest need and prioritizing those students,’’ she said.

The district currently has about 6,200 laptop computers available, schools superintendent John Stratton said in a recent school board meeting.

It won’t be clear how many more computers are needed until families begin signing them out, Jordan said.

The district has begun sending information to families on apps, social media and by phone, letting them know about the distribution process. For more information, families may contact their child’s school, Jordan said, adding that they’ll need to leave a message, because staff members are answering phone calls and email messages remotely.

The district also is working on several options for internet service, including connecting families within Spectrum’s service area to Charter Communications’ offer of 60 days of free service for students. Another option is for the district to purchase internet hot spots for students in areas that don’t have access.

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