Original article can be found at Courier-Post.

By Danny Henley; August 10, 2020

HANNIBAL | The Hannibal School District intends to have its students in classrooms when the 2020-21 school year begins later this month. However, if the COVID-19 virus forces a change of plans teachers will be better prepared to educate students virtually thanks to an investment in additional technology the district has made this summer.

“We just purchased an additional 1,000 Chromebooks. With the (1,800) Chromebooks we already owned will enable every student in the second through 12th grade to be assigned their own device,” said Hannibal School District Superintendent Susan Johnson.

According to Johnson, putting that technology in the hands of so many Hannibal youngsters is a major development.

“This is significant, especially for a school district our size,” she said. “It will enable us to prepare our students more effectively for their future and in the event that we have to shift to distance learning, every student will have access to a device so learning can continue for all students.

Johnson told the Hannibal Board of Education during its July meeting that having 2,800 Chromebooks on hand “will help us be better prepared than we were able to be in March” when the school year abruptly ended as a coronavirus precaution.

“It will help students who do not have a reliable device, especially when it isn't realistic for students to use their smartphones,” the superintendent said. “It will also be helpful for families with multiple students who may need multiple devices. Finally, it will be helpful to our teachers who need access to their students if they intend to teach them.”

A Chromebook is a laptop or tablet, Johnson explained.

“The devices are primarily used to perform a variety of tasks using the Google Chrome browser, with most applications and data residing in the 'cloud' rather than on the machine itself,” she added.

Not only will the Chromebooks be an invaluable tool should the coronavirus force schools to close again, they can also benefit students in the classroom.

“They will be equally important in both formats of learning,” Johnson said.

The additional Chromebooks cost the district $336,420. Rather than dipping into its cash reserves, the district is utilizing the CARES Act funds it received earlier this year from the federal government to make the purchase.

If past results are an accurate indicator, students can be counted on to take good care of the Chromebook assigned them.

“Out of almost 400 Chromebooks checked out this summer, only one was damaged,” Johnson said, adding that many school districts that distribute devices, such as Chromebooks, require an insurance agreement with a student's family to help cover the cost of small repairs. Typically such agreements cost a “very nominal fee,” Johnson said.

Not only has the school district invested in Chromebooks, it also is providing connectivity for the devices so that they will function.

“A Chromebook is only an effective tool if there is adequate Internet connectivity so the district also used CARES Act funds to purchase Kajeet SmartSpots,” Johnson said. “The Kajeet SmartSpot is a filtered mobile hotspot device which provides students with a safe, simple wireless connection to the Internet.”

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