‘They are falling behind’: Orange County schools face computer shortage

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WESH 2 | Paul Rivera | September 16, 2020

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

Central Florida’s largest school district is tackling a laptop shortage.

One Orange County teacher tells WESH 2 News it is making students fall behind.

The teacher we spoke with wanted to be anonymous, but they told us they called out to the community for help. The community responded, but it has not exactly been smooth sailing after that.

The problems at one school range from students never logging on, to others logging in sporadically.

“They’re going to fall behind. They are falling behind,” said the teacher as they told us the story of one student. “He’s logging in with a tablet that definitely can’t handle the programs. He does not have a laptop and he doesn’t have access to a computer. He can’t come to school because his parents are both sick with COVID,” the teacher said.

After the teacher got help on devices from the community, they said there was a problem when trying to deliver the help.

“I was told that we don’t want it. There are certain programs that need to be on the computers, that it won’t have and they still won’t be able to run. They still won’t be able to log in properly,” the teacher said.

The district has not answered our questions as to why the donations were turned away.

Wendy Doromal, with the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, which represents teachers, said she has spoken with teachers districtwide.

“When teachers inquire, they find out the school is short of laptops,” she said.

She also sent us a picture of a notice discussing laptop shortages at another school, Horizon West Middle. The message saying ‘at this time we have no laptops available,’ and 27 students were facing some kind of laptop need, or issue.

We asked the district for numbers on devices at certain schools, and districtwide, we have not received them. Their response: “Devices are managed at the school level on a case-by-case basis. There is no record at the district level.”

At an Orange County news conference Tuesday, the school district acknowledged the device shortage was a problem in their district and that they had a device shortage.

“This is a national issue. It’s international because of the pandemic. Parts, repairs for devices and so forth has been an issue,” spokesperson Scott Howat said.

The district said there was a delay in finding out some devices were damaged from students who were allowed to have them over the summer.

“We have a number of devices that are broken and up for repair, which we’re going to work on. We have devices that we know are ordered and are coming in,” Howat said.

The district is also asking for families who do not need district issued devices to bring them back.

“We don’t want any child to not have a district-issued device, but right now because of that worldwide shortage, our backs are against the wall,” Howat said.

If you would like to help, Orange County Public Schools said technology donations can be made by contacting the ‘Foundation for Orange County Public Schools.’