Albuquerque Public Schools will prioritize at-home technology for high school students, especially seniors, in the coming days.
Starting this week, the district will pass out laptops – after it made an emergency $6.4 million order of Chromebooks – to households that otherwise wouldn’t have access to a computer while schools are closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
APS Chief Information and Strategy Officer Richard Bowman said 70% of APS’ 80,000 students have devices to learn at home, citing a survey that went out to families recently.
The district will try to fill in the gaps for the other 30% with the Chromebooks, which will be limited to one per family; some households have multiple APS students.
“We do anticipate being able to meet the need of every family that does not have a device,” Bowman said.
New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary Ryan Stewart said that schools will stay closed for the rest of the academic year due to the spread of the novel coronavirus and that students will keep up with learning outside of the classroom.
APS and districts across the state have been working on a strategy to make that happen. APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said the district is expected to unveil its plan this week. “We have been working diligently over the last few weeks to try and move from your traditional brick-and-mortar school approach to the distance learning,” Armenta said during a virtual news conference Monday.
While details on the distance learning plan weren’t shared Monday, the disbursement of technology was framed as the first step in the process.
APS has more than 8,000 Chromebooks, with 10,000 more on the way.
Seniors will be first in line to get one to ensure they’re on track to graduate.
Distribution will look similar to APS’ free grab-and-go meal sites, with drive-up stations to allow students to check out a device with a student ID.
The Chromebooks will be given out at comprehensive high schools, starting with Learning Zones 1 and 2 – which cover Southeast and Southwest Albuquerque – on Wednesday and Thursday.
Learning Zones 3 and 4, or the Northwest and Northeast areas, will check out devices on April 13 and 14.
Students who go to magnet schools will be asked to check out a device at a nearby comprehensive high school.
Grade-level pickup times are at aps.edu.
Students will be expected to return the laptops, which can be used only with an APS login, at a safer time later in the year, according to Bowman.
After getting laptops to high school students, the district will look at getting devices to middle and elementary school students.
The next hurdle to overcome will be internet access.
Bowman said a plan is also in the works to secure internet for families who need it, but he wasn’t able to provide details on Monday.
According to APS data, about 12% of students don’t have access to high-speed internet at home.