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Greensburg Salem copes with laptop shortage

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Greensburg Salem copes with laptop shortage

39 minutes ago

When Greensburg Salem School District learned the 1,000 laptops it ordered for the school year would not arrive for months, leaders began looking for other ways to get computers to students.

They used money from the CARES act and other grants to buy laptops wherever they could find them, including used and refurbished models. Families that had their own computers were encouraged to use them, at least temporarily.

“As the supply lines have been tight, it’s been harder to find alternate sources,” said Superintendent Gary Peiffer.

These efforts have paid off, though the situation is still far from perfect, Peiffer said.

There’s now a computer in every district household, though the district still has a way to go before every student has their own device, Peiffer said.

The district distributed 1,746 laptops and tablets this year. There are 2,729 students in the district.

The district also spent grant money improving its bandwidth due to the large number of students and teachers who simultaneously log into its system for remote learning.

Greensburg Salem ordered more than 1,000 HP Stream laptops last year. They were originally set to arrive in August. They were delayed until September, then October, then March.

“It just kept getting pushed back, and pushed back,” Peiffer said.

District officials originally hoped coronavirus restrictions would be short lived, and the laptop shortage would prove only a minor issue.

“I think there was a lot of optimism that we could hold out, and eventually bring students back to five days a week,” Peiffer said.

The school year started out with a hybrid learning model that saw students splitting their time between in-school and remote instruction. As coronavirus cases continued to climb, it became clear that a full-time return to school would not happen anytime soon.

Due to the high number of cases, the district switched to full-time remote learning in November. The closure was originally slated to last only a few weeks but, as the virus continued to spread, the district pushed back reopening several times. Hybrid learning is now set to resume Jan. 25.

Districts nationwide are struggling with laptop shortages due to the unprecedented need for remote learning technology. In August, Lenovo, HP and Dell reported a combined shortage of nearly 5 million laptops, according to the Associated Press.

Thankfully, the shortage is easing, at least for most Westmoreland County schools. Most districts have now received the devices they ordered for the start of the school year, according to Eric Vaughan, director of technology and Infrastructure for Westmoreland Intermediate Unit. Greensburg Salem is one of the only exceptions.

Chromebooks are still hard to come by, with wait times of up to 12 weeks, according to Vaughan.

Teachers in New Kensington-Arnold School District started a GoFundMe campaign to buy Chromebooks for students. The district provided remote learning devices for students, but some have to share devices with other children in their home. The campaign has raised nearly $25,000 as of Monday.

Peiffer said, when Greensburg Salem’s laptop order finally comes through in March, the district will be able to provide a laptop for every student and start phasing out some of the antiquated devices it’s used to make do in the meantime.

There is a silver lining, he said. The technology investments the district made this school year will continue to pay off in years to come, even when students return to school.

“We’re going to be able to expand the ways that we can use online instruction,” he said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, jtierney@triblive.com or via Twitter .

Categories:
Local | Westmoreland

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