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Thousands of JCPS Chromebooks missing

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 11:05 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A simple laptop became the go to gadget for students all across the country during the pandemic. Schools used Chromebooks to keep students connected.

JCPS bought 30,000 to supplement the tens of thousands it already had on hand. Buying in bulk saved the district money, but JCPS records show the district has had to replace thousands of devices.

In September 2020, the Atherton School Based Decision Making Council seemed to get some good news.

“All our Chromebooks that we’ve spent tens of thousand of dollars on have been distributed to students,” reported then Principal Thomas Aberli.

No small feat when the district needed to more than double its Chromebook count. But Aberli suggested his council budget even more.

“I’ve been told that if they come back broken, they’re broken,” said Aberli.

District records obtained by the WAVE 3 Troubleshooters show JCPS replaced 5,180 devices because of loss, damage, or theft. That includes 862 Chromebooks seniors didn’t return.

“Now we’re dealing with children, so circumstances happen, things are lost or damaged, or misplaced,” said JCPS Communications Director Renee Murphy.

At an average $300 apiece, those circumstances cost the district an additional $1.5 million. Murphy said that’s similar to other large districts across the country though.

“In some cases we’re right in line with urban districts, and in many cases, our lost inventory is less,” said Murphy.

Murphy explained schools across JCPS varied in how they asked for devices back, but said overall the District’s oversight model worked.

“We think we’ve done a lot of outreach about appropriate device use and appropriate digital citizenship and we’ve been encouraging these messages with families even before the pandemic and that’s why we were able to keep so many devices in use during virtual learning,” said Murphy.

“They didn’t have a choice, you had to get these kids something,” said Executive Director Da’Marrion Fleming of Sowing Seeds with Faith.

He understood JCPS’ dilemma.

“We started buying as many as we possibly could to make sure kids could maintain academic sustainability,” said Fleming.

His tutoring group started buying Chromebooks for its students when it became clear the District initially didn’t have enough to go around.

“One of the big excuses was I haven’t had a laptop yet or it wasn’t my turn,” said Fleming.

In all, his group bought 63 Chromebooks for students the past two years and they came with strict oversight.

“Kids had a time that they had to give us access to those laptops to make sure, one, that they’re functionable, two, you’re submitting your assignments, and three you’ve been in class,” said Fleming.

There were consequences for missing check ins.

“We removed the laptop,” said Fleming.

It worked. His group replaced only one laptop.

“We all know growing up if it ain’t your dollar, then it don’t mean as much to you versus your dollar,” said Fleming.

At that Atherton meeting, the school council approved spending more on Chromebooks. It shifted $30,000 from a budget for two vacant teaching positions to Chromebooks.

“We authorized new Chromebooks because we thought a lot of them would get broken over a year and a half,” said Shannon Fauver, a parent and council member.

Fauver said it was a simple decision.

“It’s not a waste if we get them back, because a lot of kids need them,” said Fauver.

JCPS policy requires students or parents to report lost or broken devices.

The District currently has 60,000 Chromebooks assigned to students or waiting to be deployed.

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