Polk County distributing 60,000 devices to students for their virtual lessons

Students in Polk County can check out internet-accessible tablets for virtual school starting Wednesday. The devices are for those who many not have the tools they need at home to access those lessons.

At 10 a.m., the school district will begin handing out 60,000 devices to families in need before e-learning begins for students Thursday. According to school officials, parents received instructions from administrators at their child's school on where and when to receive their device. 

They're asking families that don’t need them to use their own devices. Families with multiple children are asked to check out one, and share.

To abide by social distancing, it will be a drive-through process. All parents will need is their child's student ID.

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“We are asking families for their patience and understanding as we navigate these very strange, foreign waters,” Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said in a statement. “Several districts around Florida were already operating on a one-to-one student-to-device ratio. Polk County simply does not have the same resources. We need the community to work with us...We need to stretch our inventory to meet the needs of as many of our students as we can.” 

The school district is anticipating more students will need devices beyond the 60,000 that are available. Local businesses have expressed interest in donating computers, officials said.

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According to the school district, high school seniors and eighth-graders, who need credits to graduate and be promoted to high school, respectively, will have priority.

“These students need to matriculate to make room in our buildings for the students coming up behind them,” Byrd said. “In the case of our seniors, we know many of them already have plans to go to college, start a career or join the military. We need to support them in moving forward with the next stages of their lives.” 

For additional information, parents and students should contact their schools.

Many students across Florida returned to the classroom -- virtually -- on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, the state Department of Education announced on-campus classes for students in the state won't resume before May 1. The decision came after President Donald Trump extended the CDC guidelines through the end of April.