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Prince William School Board Wants to Invest $10 Million in Student Devices for Distance Learning

| March 29, 2020 | 0 Comments | Education

Candidate for Prince William School Board Chairman, Dr. Babur Lateef.

Prince William School Board Chairman Babur Lateef sent an official letter to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, on Mar. 29, requesting $5 million to purchase digital devices for all high school students for the purpose of distance learning instruction.

The devices are especially necessary during the COVID-19 crisis and school closures, even if online learning is not mandatory at this juncture. Lateef said the school board would find the other $5 million within its budget. “Overall, this investment will cost nearly $10 million.”

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Prince William County Schools have closed until the end of the school year at the request of the Governor. Teachers have been instructed to put “non-graded,” “optional” content and assignments online for their students. Due to the inequity of access to tech devices, such as computers or tablets, assignments cannot be graded; therefore students lose a quarter of their year.

The School Board requested the supervisors allocate $5 million under the authority of the Virginia Code 44-146.21, which has been made available via the County’s Declaration of Emergency. The money would address a need created by the crisis and could be expedited in accordance to the declaration.

Some students, especially due to income, lack access to those online assignments available to the majority of students. They also have no access to school buildings or libraries at this time, which would otherwise provide public access to computers and the internet. Considering such access greatly influences how the school division chooses to function during the shut down, or even legally can due to equity laws, the school board believes providing the devices is an imperative.

“Our School Division is at a significant disadvantage because we have not had the funders in the past to give each of our students a digital device. This has affected our ability to implement online learning during this emergency crisis,” Lateef states.

He further points out that the crisis may not have a clear end date. Should a shutdown extend, or should there be another phase of school closures, it would become all the more important for all students to have greater access to online learning.  Should PWCS not provide a contingency plan for that, “Our students will be at an even greater disadvantage,” Lateef said.

The Chairman noted that his board had planned to provide digital devices, purchasing them over the next four years. However, now he feels that timeline must be expedited to respond to an urgent need.

“In our current emergent crisis, we are facing enormous challenges in delivering instruction. A digital device for all of our high school students would be extremely helpful to address this challenge.”

He said that this is the action that many school divisions all around the nation are now taking. Further, his board unanimously voted in favor of the request as per a straw-poll.

“We have already put together a Technology Improvement Plan that has existed for a number of years to address online learning. I am asking for your support to help us accelerate this. I would not ask for this money if we were not in the COVID-19 emergency crisis. We are facing something we have never faced before, and that will require solutions that are both innovative and creative.”

He asked that the supervisors consider it as an “emergency agenda item” at their March 31 meeting.

“I hope the Board of County Supervisors will consider this emergent funding to quickly help us provide high school students access to online learning and deliver a higher level of education in this time of crisis.”

Bristow Beat may follow up with more information regarding this request.

© 2020, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Education

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