Here’s who can get a laptop or tablet from CPS for home use

The district has spelled out which students have priority to receive one of the 100,000 devices being given out — and how to get one.

SHARE Here’s who can get a laptop or tablet from CPS for home use
Fourth grade students work on computers at Roswell B. Mason Elementary School on the South Side after a Chicago Teachers Union strike closed schools for 11 days, Friday morning, Nov. 1, 2019. File photo.

Fourth grade students work on computers at Roswell B. Mason Elementary School on the South Side.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Even while Chicago Public Schools officials work to distribute 100,000 devices to students who need them for remote learning, the district estimates 15,000 kids will still be left without a computer and internet access.

CPS has acknowledged from the start that its massive effort to quickly close the technology gap in a district with 271,000 students coming from low-income families won’t fully get the job done.

“We know that the digital divide will not be bridged overnight, and we are committed to finding additional resources for students,” CPS officials wrote in a recent letter to principals giving guidance for how to distribute the new devices.

For the laptops, iPads and Chromebooks that are being handed out, including 37,000 newly purchased devices, priority is being given to the kids who have the most significant needs. The district has about 65,000 existing devices, and it’s still trying to figure out how to get another 15,000 devices for the remaining kids.

To start, the district is focusing on communities that pass a certain threshold on the Hardship Index created by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute. That narrows things down to almost every neighborhood on the South and West Sides.

From there, CPS told principals to prioritize students in the following categories: eighth graders and high school juniors and seniors; special education students; English learners; students without a permanent home; and kids in AP or dual credit courses.

There’s no order of priority between those, but students who check more than one box will be given first dibs, CPS said.

As far as pick-up goes, each school will come up with its own plan. CPS recommends principals use a staggered method so fewer pickups are happening at the same time, and distribution should be set up outside the school.

Parents or guardians are urged to contact their school if their child needs a device, and the adults will be required to pick up devices on their kid’s behalf. Identity verification will be required, and if a parent doesn’t have a valid ID, a utility bill can be used, CPS said.

Each device will come with a charger and instructions on how to use it. Parents and students will be asked to sign a form accepting responsibility for the device, but CPS said families won’t be charged if it’s damaged or lost.

The district does, however, want to get back all the devices once this remote learning period is over. So each device will be tracked in a database along with the name and ID number of the student who’s using it on loan.

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