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Coronavirus: Partnership Gives Laptops for Distance Learning

A nonprofit group has raised more than $300,000 toward a goal of $700,000 to distribute a number of laptops free to students who qualify for them, supporting distance learning during the coronavirus.

by Jessie Pounds, News & Record / March 24, 2020
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(TNS) — Guilford Education Alliance is purchasing thousands of refurbished laptops for Guilford County, N.C., Schools students lacking technology as they attempt to learn from home due to COVID-19.

The nonprofit group has raised more than $300,000 thus far, toward a goal of $700,000, according to GEA Executive Director Winston McGregor, who also is a school board member. The laptops are free to students who qualify for them.

The plan is for the alliance to get 10,000 of the devices to the schools at a price of $70 each. Schools are checking in with families about their situations and trying to figure out where the greatest needs are. The first 520 of the laptops went out to schools and students on Monday.

Separate from this initiative, the school district has purchased and is expecting shipment of thousands of iPads that it would lend to students.

Parent Angelica Esparza went to Bessemer Elementary School on Monday afternoon with her son Alex Razo to pick up a laptop. She was surprised because she thought the laptop was only on loan from the school, but then discovered the family could keep it. It’s the first one her family has ever owned, she said.

“We’re excited, right?” she asked, glancing over at her kindergartener, who nodded.

Esparza, who also has a 3-year-old and two teenagers, said her children have tried to do distance learning since school closed for the new coronavirus. She’s been using her Android phone and found the technical challenges frustrating.

GEA is working with the High Point based nonprofit Technology for the Future on the project. Technology for the Future provides a 1-year warranty for each device.

Adrian Martinca, the founder of Technology for the Future, also runs a company called A.M. Technologies. He is sourcing the laptops through his company and through other suppliers and partners that take part in something called the National Digital Inclusion Effort, he said.

He explained that he was able to lock in prices for the refurbished laptops at about $140 per computer, which he said was the going price a few weeks ago. Now, as the era of coronavirus and school closures ramps up, he said those same type of refurbished laptops are going for about $300 on the open market.

“This is going to be the new hand-sanitizer issue,” he said of the sudden surge in demand.

Martinca is providing a challenge grant of up to $700,000 to GEA, the group said, covering half the cost of the laptops and making the price $70 apiece, rather than $140. About 1,000 have been prepped and delivered to the school district thus far, Martinca said.

Leading contributors to GEA’s fundraising for this project include the Edward M. Armfield Sr. Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, Say Yes Guilford and the Enrichment Fund.

At Bessemer Elementary School on Monday, principal Chelsea Smith and several of her staff worked to hand out laptops as families notified by the school trickled in.

Of the 75 laptops that came into the school on Monday, they had given away about half by closing time. They informed the parents that they also could come later this week, Smith said.

For some families, who cannot make it out to their schools, the district is planning to deliver laptops directly to families, with security help from the Greensboro Police Department.

Parents of Guilford County Schools students who need a laptop to use at home should contact their child’s school, according to GEA. To give to GEA’s fundraising effort, donors can visit www.GEANC.org/donate or mail a check to GEA, 311 Pomona Drive, Suite E, Greensboro, NC 27407.

©2020 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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