DCPS: Over 43K students lack technology needed for Duval HomeRoom, district eyes purchase of 50K devices

District leaders working to bridge 'digital divide' between in-person, distance learning

District leaders working to bridge 'digital divide' between in-person, distance learning

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ensuring all students, regardless of their selected learning format, have access to the technology and connectivity they need for the upcoming school year is one of the many challenges leaders of the Duval County School District are facing.

“Currently, 43,000 students lack the technology that they need to effectively participate in Duval HomeRoom,” Chief Information Officer Jim Culbert said. “Parents often reported that they had a computer in that home but often that computer did not have the capabilities to run the applications that are required especially when your trying to do live streaming of videos from the teachers.”

In the district’s annual technology update, Culbert cited non-standard operation systems, outdated or broken devices, technical or login issues, a lack of a product licensing and online safety/student security as the most common issues with household CPUs.

“Many of our students struggle at no fault of their own,” Culbert said. “Their home devices simply could not support all the functionality required by Duval HomeRoom.”

The district is working to procure 50,000 additional devices to address the technology deficit and make sure all students have the requisite equipment.

Culbert added that by the end of the 2020 spring semester, the district was still handing out laptop devices to students.

Providing distance learners with reliable internet connectivity is also a challenge for the IT department.

“Not having full, reliable internet access at home is a huge issue with some of our students,” Culbert said. “We must level that playing field for our students moving forward.”

According to Culbert’s presentation (viewable below), nearly 2,000 mobile internet hot spots were distributed to students during the spring semester, with approximately another 3,000 hot spots in the district’s stockpile.

Additionally, Culbert said the district has procured 3,000 more hot spot devices for the upcoming school year, totaling more than 8,000 of the wireless local area networks that the district will have at its disposal.

Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene is scheduled to present her finalized reopening plan to the DCPS board Thursday afternoon. The finalization of the plan will allow parents and families to make a final decision on their student’s learning method, thereby clarifying the district’s technology needs.

The district’s full 2020-2021 technology plan can be reviewed here.

About the Author:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.