As the Detroit district shifts to full-scale online learning, school officials will create technology support hubs to help families use, repair, and replace devices.
Beyond providing technology support, the hubs will offer community resources. They may serve as the district’s meal distribution sites. They also will provide help with utility bills, mobile COVID-19 screenings, and resources for child care.
The hubs, located at 13 locations in the Detroit Public Schools Community District, will open Dec. 1. Because of the large number of COVID-19 cases across the city, the district decided to switch to remote learning at least until January. In addition, on Sunday the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services ordered all in-person learning at high schools to end for at least three weeks.
Addressing device issues will be crucial so students can participate in online learning, especially for those transitioning to remote instruction after weeks of taking classes inside school buildings. About 25% of district students were learning in person, while some took virtual classes at the district’s learning centers, located inside school buildings and supervised by support staff.
There’s been a high demand from families for technology support, and the district has received a substantial number of complaints related to devices. Damaged devices have often resulted in lost class time, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
He said some parents are getting frustrated with tech support over the phone and need more immediate help.
“It’s about going into the community and resolving technical issues. This is why an in-person solution is needed,” he said.
Families have complained about cracked screens, broken keyboards, trouble with microphones, and some devices not turning on. The hubs are designed to more quickly respond to these issues. The hubs will also provide virtual learning support. For instance, families can get help submitting assignments through online platforms.
After schools were shuttered to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the district distributed devices and internet access during the summer to the district’s roughly 50,000 students. About 45,000 devices have been distributed since summer.
In the meantime, the district is directing families to contact school administrators and the district’s technology community partner human-I-T for device support.
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Despite the new hubs, a few community members expressed anger over device quality.
Tia Shepherd is frustrated that her granddaughter’s device keeps breaking.
“These tablets aren’t worth a dime,” she said during Tuesday’s public comment period. “This is her third tablet, and there’s something wrong with it.” She’s also worried students are having difficulty acclimating to devices.
Below is the list of the district’s 13 technology hub locations:
- Mumford High School
- Henry Ford High School
- Renaissance High School
- Cody High School
- Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School
- Gompers Elementary-Middle School
- East English Village Preparatory Academy
- King High School
- Denby High School
- Pershing High School
- Western International High School
- Academy of Americas
- Munger Elementary-Middle School
For help with internet connectivity, text “INTERNET4CF” to 562-372-6925
For help with device support, text “HELP4CF” to 562-372-6925