Laptops (copy)

To help kids who don’t have devices at home for distance learning, Guilford Education Alliance has teamed up with local nonprofit Technology for the Future to help fill the gap. Tanya Dixon packs laptops into envelopes in the media center at Bessemer Elementary in Greensboro on March 23.

GREENSBORO — Two local nonprofits together provided nearly 8,800 free laptops to Guilford County Schools students amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Winston McGregor, executive director of the Guilford Education Alliance, said the group raised nearly $600,000, which paid for about 8,780 laptops.

“It’s an amazing experience being able to see the impact and the relief that computers bring into students’ lives and how vital they are to students’ success,” Adrian Martinca, the founder of Technology for the Future, said.

McGregor expects Guilford County Schools principals to distribute another couple of hundred devices this summer, while about 500 will be held in reserve until next school year.

There was no slowdown in either need or demand for the laptops, McGregor said. That continued to be strong through the end of the school year, despite Guilford County Schools separately lending out its own devices to students as well.

They did, however, experience some delays with the last shipment of laptops, McGregor said. Computers got held up at the Canadian border, and there was also some trouble finding enough chargers for them.

About 500 of the laptops were given away to graduates of Smith and Andrews high schools, with all graduates receiving a laptop at their drive-thru graduation ceremony. McGregor said that choice was partially because they were looking at ways to quickly and efficiently give away laptops at the end of the school year, but also because it was one of the ideas the district suggested about what might be most valuable.

Both schools have higher concentrations of low-income families. McGregor confirmed that they were thinking of the increased need for personal computers for graduates who may be taking online college courses because of the pandemic. She also said graduates may need computers to fill out online paperwork to prepare for college.

The laptop giveaway project coalesced as an emergency effort to make online learning possible for students after Gov. Roy Cooper closed the state’s schools in March through the end of the academic year because of the threat of COVID-19.

McGregor said her group is no longer actively soliciting donations to buy more laptops.

Instead, she said, they are hopeful the district will be able to develop a longer term strategy for getting a device to every child, and they’d like to wait and see what that strategy would be, and how they could help to supplement it.

Cooper is expected to announce on Wednesday,July 1, whether schools will return with in-person classes or online classes only, based on his administration’s assessment of COVID-19 risks. School districts may have some flexibility to choose a more restrictive option.

Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.

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