Charter schools give out laptops so students can learn at home

KIPP Charter School parents drove up to collect loaner laptops so their children could learn at home amid the coronavirus pandemic shuttering schools. There were too many parents at the start for a system not designed to handoff computers quickly.

“They sent quite a few emails actually letting people know there’s going to be a wait, but I don’t think they anticipated this,” said parent Douglas Wilson.

Newark Police reopened one street. An officer even went in the school to help with handoffs, and they advised KIPP leaders of the new rules to stay 6 feet apart.

Joanna Belcher is KIPP’s executive director in Newark. She says KIPP did give lesson packets to 4,800 students for the first week out of school.

“And that was OK for a week, but without technology access, our kids won’t be able to see our teachers’ live teaching, they won’t be able to access online platforms that can help provide learning that’s at their exact reading level or math level,” Belcher said.

So KIPP did an online survey of who needed laptops. The response: More than half of the students at its 11 Newark schools. Teachers and workers collected 2,000  laptops from classrooms — with hopes of accessing grants for more — and then loaned them to families.

Belcher said it’s been a little crazy, but parents are appreciative.

“I think it’s a great idea. He has a device at home but it’s an older device and I don’t necessarily trust it to be able to keep up with the one they’re handing out,” said Wilson.

Four laptops for Eugenie Yeeloy’s four school-age children.

“I think it’s amazing, them giving us computers. What they did is two options. If you have wifi, then use your own wifi. If you don’t have wifi, they’re going to give you a provider and you can get wifi. I think that distant learning is really good because we need to kind of keep kids engaged,” Yeeloy said.

KIPP says it plans to re-open schools about a month from now in late April, but if that doesn’t happen for whatever reason, KIPP says it can go to a plan B.

“We’re taking everything one day at a time. Part of the importance of getting our laptops out was it allows us to be more flexible no matter how long our kids are out of school. We can change assignments, add assignments, move kids up levels in the platforms that they’re working on,” Belcher said.

A lesson in COVID-19 teaching educators another way to improvise and keep promises.

“We made a promise to all of our kids when they started school with us we would do whatever it takes to help them climb the mountain to college, and that promise doesn’t go away when there’s a crisis happening or a pandemic. We believe that’s our responsibility to provide the education we promised we would provide, and we’re going to do that and make sure that we do everything we can for every kid,” she added.