RPS 205 distributes 6,000 laptops in ‘unprecedented’ stay-at-home learning initiative

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford School District 205 is getting ready for the new normal during the coronavirus outbreak, and is launching a new Distance Learning website on Thursday.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, students were able to pick up supplies, including laptop computers, for at-home learning.

Following Gov. JB Pritzker’s decision Tuesday to extend the stay-at-home order through April 30th, Rockford school administrators are working to make sure every student is still able to learn, without leaving the house.

“Learning does still need to go on,” said Superintendent Dr. Ehren Jarrett. “This is not a situation where we want families to disengage from learning.”

Faculty from middle and high schools issued Chromebooks to students who needed them via a drive-up system.

“This is something that is unprecedented, something that we’re attempting to do on the fly that takes many districts years to deploy,” Jarrett said.

About 6,000 devices have already been assigned. Jarrett says running out of Chromebooks isn’t a concern, and students who have not yet received one should not worry.

“We are going to be very, very understanding as we roll this out. Families are not going to be punished because they didn’t have access to a device,” Jarrett said. “Grading is something that… we are really going to be emphasizing learning, not grading.”

Administrators are also working on helping families who might struggle with Internet access. Comcast has provided about 300 wifi hotspots that students can use. Paper packets are also being given to families who are unable to access the website.

“We do think that some of the digital divide will be closed as quickly as possible,” Jarrett said.

District leaders said the Distance Learning website is designed to be user friendly for all families.

Executive Director of Curriculum Heidi Dettman said, “The most important thing for parents and students to know is that they will have one landing spot for their teachers. Every week, you’re going to see a Google Slide presentation that has 5 days worth of activities.”

Laptops will be handed out at elementary schools on Friday, and more pickup times will be available next week.

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