Chromebook Distribution
Will Enhance Learning

Posted by JOSHUA FLORY on 7/30/2020

Under the district's new 1:1 initiative, K-2 students will receive touchscreen Chromebooks while students in Grades 3-12 will receive laptops.
Under the district's new 1:1 initiative, K-2 students will receive touchscreen Chromebooks while students in Grades 3-12 will receive laptops.  

Providing a Chromebook to every KCS student is a complicated task, but preparations have begun at schools across the county.

In May of this year, the Knox County Board of Education and Knox County Commissioners approved a 1:1 plan that will make a Chromebook computer available to every KCS student in Grades K-12, starting in the fall semester.

The initiative was made possible by federal funding provided through the CARES Act. The goal is to help teachers enhance their instruction through the use of technology, whether they’re teaching in the district’s new virtual learning program or returning to schools for in-person, on-campus instruction.

Gail Byard, the district’s Chief Technology Officer, said KCS has been receiving shipments of Chromebooks in quantities of about 2,500 computers each.

“This probably would have been a two-year rollout in normal circumstances and we’re doing this in about 3-4 months, so it’s definitely fast-tracked,” Byard said. “As quickly as we get them into the warehouse, we turn around and distribute them to the schools.”

Two different devices will be provided to students this year. For Grades K-2, the Chromebooks will be touch-screen devices with keyboards that can be flipped to the back, replicating the look and feel of a tablet. For Grades 3-12, laptop-style Chromebooks will be provided, using traditional keyboards.

IT Infrastructure Manager Freddie Cox said the devices will feature web-based applications, with three primary systems used by students: Aspen to communicate with teachers, Canvas as a “digital backpack” for assignments and content, and Microsoft Teams as a virtual classroom.

Besides providing the tools they need, Cox also said the computers will provide safeguards. “On each of the Chromebooks we do have a filtering application that protects not only from inappropriate material but also things that could pose an IT security risk,” he said. “So we’re looking at it from preventing malware and security problems all the way up to protecting students from harmful content.”

All devices will be provided free of charge, but families will be given the option to buy insurance for $30. To sign up for a Chromebook, parents must fill out a registration form and an insurance form.

Once the forms are submitted, each student’s base school will contact them with details about how and when the devices will be distributed. The district will provide a notification if families are eligible for an insurance subsidy. All families who receive free and reduced-price meals qualify for the subsidy, and families can visit LunchApplication.com to apply for free and reduced-price meals.

In order to best use the laptop, families should ensure their home has access to the internet by the start of school on August 17. More information about standard and low-cost options for internet service are available at this link.

For more information about the 1:1 program and Frequently Asked Questions, visit www.knoxschools.org/chromebooks.