‘This takes time’: HWDSB preparing rollout of 6,600 remote learning devices for families

·3 min read

Staff at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board have spent the better part of the winter holiday preparing remote learning devices that 6,600 elementary students will use at home when classes restart in January.

Across the district, the devices — primarily iPads — are being cleaned, bagged and transported to schools that need them. They will be collected by families who requested them on Jan. 4.

The deployment process is “logistically tricky,” said Manny Figueiredo, HWDSB education director, who added that the devices being sent to families had been used for in-person learning prior to the province’s mid-December announcement that ordered the shuttering of schools.

The 6,600 requests for devices are not evenly spread out across the district — many requests are concentrated in specific schools or neighbourhoods — meaning the board has to take devices from around the district and transport them to schools in need.

The board is also waiting on a shipment of 1,000 devices that were ordered early in December, which Figueiredo says he hopes will arrive in time for the first full day of remote learning on Jan. 5.

“Getting these devices ready doesn’t happen overnight. You have to first pull them out of their original schools and redistribute them across the entire district,” Figueiredo told The Spectator on Tuesday.

“So for those kids picking up devices (on Jan. 4), there may be a one-day delay for remote learning.”

In a memo sent to families Tuesday night, the board said Jan. 4 will be a “transition day” for elementary teachers and students to get comfortable with remote learning technology and for families who requested devices to pick them up from their schools. The first full day of remote learning will begin on Jan. 5.

“The shift to remote learning does not change the school day or school schedules, but for many, it does require connecting in different ways to continue learning,” the board wrote.

“We are implementing our remote learning plan that involves supports such as device deployment, virtual classroom guidelines, resources for students in special education and much more.”

Secondary schools, meanwhile, are scheduled to begin on time given students are already equipped with devices and have been using them on and off since September.

For now, full-day kindergarteners won’t receive devices and will instead learn through worksheets and readings, a decision Figueiredo said was in part driven by parents’ requests that their children not be required to stare at a computer all day.

Elementary students will be required to attend remote learning until Jan. 11, when schools are allowed to reopen in-person. Secondary students will continue remote learning until Jan. 25.

Hamilton’s Catholic school board has said it will be ready to begin full remote learning on Jan. 4, and has launched a website for parents to help families navigate virtual learning technology.

The HWDSB also has a webpage where it provides updates and tips for remote learning preparations.

Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator