Rural families still struggling with connectivity issues for online learning

School districts in Washington state have distributed thousands of computers and other devices to students to assist them with remote learning during the pandemic, but many families are still facing connectivity issues in rural parts of the state.

Families in Kitsap County raised concerns about digital access as schools reopened online for the year to limit the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the risk of in-person schooling, the Kitsap Sun reported.

“Supply disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly delayed a shipment we placed last spring,” the Central Kitsap School District said on its website Aug. 28 regarding delays in delivered devices. “Until we receive that shipment, we ask families who already have devices in their homes to wait before requesting a district Chromebook.”

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IT Director Deborah Bryan said it is affecting the supply across the entire United States, adding that shipments would be delayed until at least the beginning of October.

District spokesman David Beil said the order for 5,900 devices is part of the district’s routine replacement cycle, and the shipment delay has not affected its ability to provide devices to those who need them.

The IT department distributed 1,000 Chromebooks for students to take home last spring, and another 2,500 leading up to the start of school year Sept. 2.

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The district has had a one-to-one device initiative for the past five years, with students in K-5 using devices in schools and those in 6-12 bringing them home.

“We initially began working with a list of 1,600 families that may not have internet access. From that list we were able to identify approximately 100 families that did need internet access,” Beil said. “We are working with these families to connect them with an internet provider.”

Most local districts reported they were working to support the initial demand for devices during the pandemic and have already started working toward assigning devices to students, including in the South Kitsap School District and North Kitsap School District.