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S.L. School District’s supply of educational devices depleted; 6,000 laptops backordered amid supply chain pinch

District says more than 6,000 laptops are on back order as classes start Tuesday

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East High School Principal Greg Maughan helps Gakunzi Freddy open a laptop and Wi-Fi hotspot, donated by Pete Ashdown, XMission president and founder, outside of the school in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 9, 2020.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City School District informed parents Wednesday that its supply of student laptops has been depleted.

The district is at crunch time with the school year scheduled to start on Tuesday. And Salt Lake City is the only school district in Utah to start the school year solely in remote mode.

A text to West High School parents and guardians said: “As of 1:30 p.m. this afternoon, we have run out of student laptops to distribute. We will let you know when we receive more.”

The district’s Facebook page said it was out of computers at its Glendale Community Learning Center and had limited numbers at community learning centers at Rose Park and Liberty elementary schools. Students who need internet hot spots were told to request them at their schools.

More than half of the district’s 23,000-plus students come from low-income households, according to its demographic report, so many households have great need for technology provided by schools.

Salt Lake educators have spent much of the past two weeks distributing laptops and in some cases hotspots, to enable students to fully participate in remote learning. Some have been delivered to students’ apartment complexes while others have been distributed as students have met with their teachers at neighborhood schools.

According to the district’s return-to-school plan, students will attend school online during regular school hours and follow a standard school schedule. Educators will teach “live” via video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Teams. Students will learn online at the same time. Depending on their level in school, some students will self-direct some of their learning.

District spokeswoman Yándary Chatwin said the school district ordered laptops earlier this year, but 6,000 of them remain on back order because of supply-chain issues.

Chatwin said the school district was troubleshooting by contacting schools to locate laptops that could be redistributed to other schools and by reaching out to partners that can provide assistance.

“We’re committed to making sure kids have what they need,” she said.

According to Education Week, some of the nation’s largest school districts are buying laptops in huge numbers at the same time “the Chinese-based supply chain that builds mobile computers and electronic components has yet to fully recover from a coronavirus wave that ravaged its country for months earlier this year.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated the Salt Lake City School District begins instruction on Monday. Classes actually start on Tuesday. It also said the district was waiting for a shipment of Chromebook laptops. The laptops are not Chromebooks.