Chromebooks aid distance learning

Revonda Smith, who has three children in the Hudson district, shows off one of the three Chromebooks her children received for distance instruction this academic year. Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media

HUDSON — Chromebooks are being issued to all students in grades K-12 in the Hudson City School District this year to accommodate remote learning. In past years, students in grades 9-12 were given school-issued Chromebooks to take home, and K-9 classes could use shared Chromebooks in their classrooms, Hudson City School District Assistant Superintendent for School Improvement April Prestipino said.

In March 2020, in response to emergency school closures, students in all grades who were in need of devices for remote learning could take home school Chromebooks. Now that the Hudson City School District has a hybrid in-person and remote learning model for the new school year, and the sharing of laptops is still considered unsafe due to COVID-19 concerns, Chromebooks are available for all students.

“Our IT (Information Technology) department has done an amazing job having everything ready for the families, so whether they have an immediate need now, or if the need arises later, we will have the technology available to support our students,” Prestipino said.

Students are allowed to use other devices at home, but there are enough Chromebooks for everybody to have the option, she said.

Student online accounts, which students need to log into for their remote learning, block inappropriate websites regardless of the device. On the Chromebooks, the school is notified when students make inappropriate searches, Prestipino said.

The hybrid model will have in-person instruction every day except Wednesdays, when the school will undergo a deep cleaning, she said.

It will be the expectation that Chromebooks go home with most students for remote learning on Wednesdays, she added.

Although some younger students used school Chromebooks at home for remote learning in the spring, this will be the first time elementary and middle school students will be taking the laptops to and from school.

Students in kindergarten through second grade attending in-person school will leave their Chromebook in school for now, Prestipino said.

“Taking devices back and forth will be an issue for many of our younger students,” Elementary Principal Mark Brenneman said. “We’re still waiting on a delivery of Chromebooks. They’re still back ordered at this point.”

Several hundred more Chromebooks are coming in, Brenneman said.

“Our vision is that they have one at home as well as one at school because that is an issue. But we have bought cases, we bought bags for the students to bring them, and really the only day that the students in person will bring them home would be on that Wednesday,” he said.

Since the schoolwide issuing of the Chromebooks is new to the district, they will likely assess the program as the year progresses.

“It’ll become more clear to us,” Prestipino said of how to oversee the back and forth of the devices.

In the spring, some students struggled to learn from home due to a lack of an adequate internet connection. The school provided hot spot devices for students who needed internet access, but there wasn’t enough, Prestipino said. Columbia County and internet providers in the area helped provide internet for those who needed it. Mid-Hudson Cable provided a temporary COVID-19 deal, she said.

“Every family that reached out to us, we assisted them to get internet, Brenneman said of the elementary school families in the spring. “We had some families that did not accept our help and they did not have their student online,” he added.

Those students were able to use packets for remote learning, he said. But this year, students participating in full remote learning must be able to get online because of attendance rules from the state, he added.

“Everyone who has chosen online must have a way to get online,” he said.

The school district had 10 hot spots before COVID-19 hit, and purchased 40 in the spring. They have purchased about 60-70 more hot spot devices for this school year, Prestipino said. Funding for the data devices came from multiple sources, including general funds, state aid, taxpayer money, government grants and donations, she said.

Any elementary school student who requests a Chromebook can receive one, Brenneman said, but they are not required.

High school and junior high students are expected to have a Chromebook from the school.

Revonda Smith has three students in the Hudson district, in 7th, 8th and 9th grades, and picked up three Chromebooks on Friday. Smith has been pleased with the distance instruction her children had in the spring.

“I am truly blessed for the district my kids attend,” Smith said. “Everything they have done has been wonderful.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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