Students in the K-12 system will receive new Chromebooks this year to assist in digital learning, but the order is delayed and the school year is just over two weeks away from starting.
The delay was expected, as written in the return-to-school plan dated Aug. 17, but the computers were to be distributed to all junior high and high school students — bought through the $20 million the province allocated to support digital learning.
Now, the computers will be distributed as they become available, with priority given to Grade 12 students currently without one.
"We have ordered all the Chromebooks based on the financing that was provided by government," said Terry Hall, CFO and Assistant Director of Education with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.
"We have been working with the suppliers. Obviously [we] haven't been given a firm delivery date because they're obviously at the mercy of worldwide supply chains as well ... The fact of the matter is there's a large competition for these devices for all districts and suppliers worldwide."
About 30,000 computers have been ordered. Hall said the supplier will turn over as many computers as they can as soon as they become available, instead of waiting for the full order to come through first.
Hall said the school district is hopeful the full order will be delivered throughout the fall. He added he hopes deliveries will at least come in 5,000 or 5,500 groupings which will allow the school board to distribute them across an entire grade level throughout the entire province.
In the meantime, district-owned and school-owned devices will be distributed where necessary until deliveries start rolling in.
What's more than students getting a new computer to assist in their education this year, Hall said it's also a teaching moment for students to learn the responsibility of taking care of an asset.
"It'll be important for them in life and when they move on to work, to understand how to protect a corporate entity or asset that's provided to them to use," he said.
But it's also everyone involved who has the responsibility to protect the devices for future students to use, Hall added.
"The value of that for future students to use them will be made known," he said.
Hall said students and parents will be asked to sign an agreement that will "spell out" what the computers are to be used for, acceptable use based on district policy and proper care for them.
"There's certain things that society expects you at certain ages that you're not going to be doing with your phone and we expect the same with these devices, that they're used for the intended purpose and not abuse on social media and those types of things," he said.
In the event something does happen to a district distributed computer, Hall said there are warranties in place and that it's inevitable that damage could happen.
However, Hall said if damage is a common occurrence, or if there are signs of blatant abuse, parents could be on the hook for part of the bill.
"There could be a small monetary impact for the parent or the student, eventually, if they're not demonstrating the respect and the care for the device," he said.
"But that won't be our go to, that'll be if it becomes habitual."