School system issues laptops to CHS students
From Monday, November 16 to Tuesday, November 24, 2020, laptops were assigned to on-campus Cairo High School students. Every student at Cairo High School is now required to bring a laptop with them to school each day, either a personal device or one issued by the school. This distribution is part of a county-wide initiative to provide mobile technology to all Grady County School District students.
CHS Principal Mr. Chris Lokey announced during distribution week that, “laptops are mandatory for all students.” As explained by several CHS teachers, the devices will be used in class to access Google Classroom assignments and educational internet programs such as Membean, Kahoot, Edmentum, and DeltaMath.
Seniors and Juniors were the first to receive laptops on Monday and Tuesday, November 16-17; on Wednesday and Thursday, Sophomores and Freshmen who planned to rent a laptop from the school were called out of class. Friday of that week and the following Monday and Tuesday, November 23-24, were all-call days for any student who had not yet picked up a computer, including those who did not have the opportunity because of being quarantined.
Mrs. Jenny Harrison, CHS Media Specialist, coordinated the high school’s laptop distribution effort from the CHS Media Center. She clarified that, “laptops are available [to check out] for all face-to-face students.”
To receive a laptop, students had to bring a completed blue form and $20, in cash or check, to the Media Center on their distribution day.
According to Mrs. Harrison, three forms were given out to Grady County high schoolers earlier this month: a copy of the school district’s Technology and Acceptable Internet Use Policy (printed on white paper), laptop contracts (blue), or Laptop Opt-Out Forms (green).
Signing the Opt-Out Form indicated that the student would not check out a laptop from CHS and recognizes it is his or her responsibility to bring their own computer from home each day.
“And if something happens [to the personal computer], we can’t work on it,” Mrs. Harrison added.
Each student who turned in a blue form, meaning they opted-in, received a laptop, a carrying case featuring the Grady County School District logo, a charger for their laptop, and an identification tag. Via computer IT numbers and personalized student barcodes, laptops are checked out under a student’s name just like any other Media Center resource.
“The $20 is an insurance premium, and that way if it breaks, the screen doesn’t work, or whatever, they bring it back and we give them another one, and they do not have to pay another $20,” Mrs. Harrison said. “The computer will be theirs to take home through May, and then they’ll turn them back in.”
Upperclassmen, especially Seniors, were given priority when it came to passing out newly-purchased Dell laptops. Other students received HP laptops that were already in use. Devices are turned back in every summer so that, for example, “as Sophomores move… through the grades, they’ll get a newer computer,” Mrs. Harrison described.
Mrs. Harrison says the carts that formally housed laptops in each teacher’s classroom are being converted into charging stations for the student laptops: “The leftover computers are going back into the classrooms. Every classroom will have a Dell charger and an HP charger and a cart. The cart will be empty except for maybe one or two computers. That way if a student is working, especially in a lab or in the gym, they can charge their computer there, while they’re in the class,” the media specialist explained.
“But we want them to charge [their laptops] at home each day.”
Mrs. Harrison says students who checked out school laptops, “have to log into the device at school every two weeks to authenticate the computer." Students must log on using Internet Explorer (not Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome) for their device to be authenticated.
"The WiFi keeps a record," she continued, "so that’s the way of us continuously keeping inventory, every two weeks.”
For now, students must have internet access outside of school to work on assignments, as the laptops do not have built-in internet access. However, Mrs. Harrison says the school system hopes to have WiFi hotspots available for check out in the future.
The computer itself does not block websites, so students can access any page they choose, including social media sites and Netflix, as long as they the WiFi they are connected to does not restrict their browsing. However, Mrs. Harrison did remind students that because the device is owned by the school system, the system can access and monitor laptop use, search history, and similar information.
As best summed up by the Web Access section of the internet use policy, “web browsing may be monitored and web activity records may be retained indefinitely.”
Although mobile devices were assigned to students at every Grady County School, “Cairo High School is the only one that sends their devices home [with students],” according to Mrs. Harrison.
While some of the money used to purchase devices for the county came from the $1 million dollar L4GA Grant received by CHS this past year, to Mrs. Harrison’s knowledge most of the funds came from "The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act" (CARES Act), a federal bill enacted in late March 2020 that allocated federal money for local government COVID-19 relief.