On Wednesday, GDOE Deputy Superintendent Joseph Sanchez said that he has received reports of laptops either damaged or stolen. “The longer that students keep it the longer the chances are for damage or theft,” Sanchez said.
The Guam Department of Education has roughly 10,000 laptops distributed to students. At least 6,000 of those laptops were provided to students during the three weeks face-to-face learners were learning at home. Although face-to-face learners resumed in-person instruction this week, GDOE is not in a rush to collect the laptops.
GDOE won’t know final tallies on damaged or stolen laptops until students are told to return them to schools. But for now, GDOE is taking the gamble, just in case there is another school shutdown. “We don’t know if there’s going to be another shutdown — we are just trying to monitor the numbers and guess. Having people return 6,000 or 7,000 laptops is not an easy thing to do,” Sanchez said.
Parents of students who were provided a laptop had to sign a form acknowledging responsibility for the device and indicating that parents would be held liable for damage. The laptops, however, are also insured by GDOE. GDOE has made insurance claims on at least 100 laptops that were returned to schools damaged. But, according to Sanchez, there could be more that have not been reported as students continue to hold onto the borrowed laptops.
With this in mind, GDOE allowed schools to determine whether or not students should return the laptops at this time. “We are telling schools to consider a couple of things, some of the schools have their entire inventory out, yes we are receiving laptops as we speak, but logistically we are talking about thousands of laptops coming into campus they have to be tagged, stored and distributed on campus,” Sanchez said.
Allowing student to hang onto the laptops would save GDOE time and effort in having to distribute laptops all over again. It took GDOE one week to transition face-to-face learners to a temporary online platform when schools shut down last month. A majority of that time was spent addressing requests for laptops, scheduling a time for distribution at schools and tagging the devices.
Some schools have begun asking students to bring the laptops to school on their cohort days as an alternative to collecting them at this point. Sanchez noted that some parents are voluntarily returning laptops to the schools.
But overall, it’s a balancing act of technological resources in and outside of the classroom as GDOE tries to ensure students have consistent access to online support noting that asynchronous instruction for face-to-face learners may utilize online platforms such as the IXL program, and Google Classroom. Laptops were purchased with federal funding to specifically support distance learning. If that were to change, Sanchez said, “we would have to work with the U.S. Department of Education.”
But, eventually GDOE intends to collect laptops. GDOE will monitor community COVID-19 transmission rate numbers for the next two weeks to determine what the chances are of another shutdown before making a final decision on when laptops must be returned to schools.