Pittsburgh Public Schools runs out of computers for students; start of school now delayed until Sept. 8

By August 29, 2020 No Comments

Parents of PPS students waited outside of Westinghouse High School in Homewood this morning, Saturday, August 29, to pick up computers for their children to use. Parents who were not already in line by 10:30 a.m. were sent home because the district did not have enough devices.
(Photo courtesy of  Ann Belser/Print)

By Mary Niederberger
Pittsburgh Current Education Writer

The Pittsburgh Public Schools is delaying the start of online classes for its 23,000 students until Sept. 8 citing a shortage of computers.

Online classes were supposed to start Monday, and for weeks, district officials said they expected to have enough devices for all students if those who had access to family-owned computers continued to use them. As the Pittsburgh Current reported on June 16, after a disastrous spring of online learning, superintendent Anthony Hamlet said that every student would have a laptop or tablet by the start of school.

But laptop distribution closed down early on Saturday, with families sent home empty-handed with some taking to the district’s Facebook page to express their frustration.

Before noon on Saturday, the district posted this announcement on Facebook:

“Due to supply chain issues and high demand, we have exhausted our current supply of computer devices early and all sites are now CLOSED. Additional distribution dates will be announced next week when we expect a large delivery of devices. More information will be provided this evening.”

On Saturday evening, parents started to receive robocalls telling them that school would be delayed until Sept. 8.

Then came a press release from the district citing “unexpected delays caused by continued technology supply chain shortages around the country” for the shortage of devices for students.

The release said the district will continue to distribute devices to families as they arrive and will announce distribution dates on a rolling basis. Up to 7,000 devices are expected to be delivered by the end of next week “to fulfill the outstanding need,” the release said.

Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said in the release that Pittsburgh’s delayed start date was similar to others in the region.

“At this time the distribution of devices is only for those families of students who do not have access to a device. By delaying the start of school we can ensure that no student is inequitably disadvantaged because they do not have access to the tools they need to start the school year successfully,” Hamlet said in the release.

As of Aug. 27, the district exchanged or distributed 6,440 of the devices ordered in the spring to students. On Friday and Saturday, another 1,200 devices were distributed to students in grades 2-5.

But another 1,800 students still have a device from last year that won’t work for this year’s E-leaning program. Those devices need to be returned to the district to be reimaged and redistributed, the release said.

School staff will use next week to refine lesson plans and Individualized Education Plans for students with special needs, contact hard-to-reach families and participate in professional development.

The district will also survey staff and families to “identify which adjustments will be made to the district’s calendar” and will work to ensure materials are in place for students in the event that delays in devices continue beyond the start of school.

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