Almost 400 laptop computers will be in the hands of Saskatoon Public Schools' high school students this week in order to ensure students have access to the technology they need to continue learning.
Jason Dunk, the school division's chief technology officer, said distribution of laptops began Monday at Mount Royal and Bedford Road collegiates, with other high schools to follow this week.
Some of those laptops will be accompanied by cellphones that will provide students with internet access through a wireless network hot spot, allowing students to better participate in learning and connect with teachers.
"We are providing technology to students in the form of laptops for students who don't have them," Dunk said. "In the case where they don't have internet access in the home, we have a solution with 300 hot spots available to families. We will pair it to a student laptop so they can access online learning opportunities through the phone."
Approximately 400 more computers will be distributed beginning April 27 to elementary students and families who require technology to support learning at home.
The division has purchased 300 phones — each accompanied by a 10GB monthly data package — as part of a partnership with the Saskatoon Teachers Association and Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools. SaskTel is providing data plans at a reduced price. The estimated cost to provide the service to Saskatoon Public Schools' students is approximately $65,000, with the school division picking up about 90 per cent of the cost.
The supply of computers designated for student use has been drawn from schools and prepared by information services staff. Distribution is focused on student need in order to ensure equity across the division, and schools have been in contact with students and families to assess individual situations. For example, some students may have internet service at home but no access to a computer. Others may require a full package with a computer and internet access.
The program was first launched at the collegiate level in order to support credit attainment and those students working toward graduation. Students were contacted individually to come in for pick up and the process respects the importance of physical distancing. Distribution is limited to one student at a time and there are a limited number of staff members involved in the sign-out process.
The use of computers and cellular devices being provided to students must adhere to the division's existing technology use guidelines in the same manner as regular in-school use. Dunk said content filtering and browsing restrictions will help ensure appropriate, learning-related use of school division owned technology.