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Mission View Elementary School staff members deliver electronic devices to students during a drive-thru event this spring.

WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee School District is telling students to keep their school-issued devices over the summer.

Allowing students to keep their devices helps the district extend learning over the summer, and accommodates students who may be enrolling in summer school or credit retrieval programs.

The district was also cognizant of the fact that the school-issued devices aid both students and families beyond the virtual classroom and may help them stay connected with friends and family or access important social services and medical support.

“We believe that all students and their families must have access to technology and the internet so they can be engaged in our ever-changing world,” says Wenatchee Superintendent, Dr. Paul Gordon. “Being connected allows families access to education, health, nutrition and finances. The Wenatchee School District is pleased to play a small role in helping to support our students and families during the summer.”

High school seniors, families moving out of the district, or those that will not return next year will need to turn in their school-issued device to their current school during designated check-in times or by contacting their school to make arrangements. Orchard Middle School eighth graders will trade in their school iPads for Chromebooks. All other eighth graders will take their devices with them to high school in the fall.

All fifth graders will return their devices to their elementary school in late August at a date to be determined and communicated by their school. They will have a new device checked out to them by their middle school when school starts in August.

The transition to an online learning model in March has allowed the district to reimagine instructional technology and to evaluate a move toward a more 1:1 model where every child is assigned a device to use throughout the year.

After checking out more than 4,000 district devices to students in the early stages of the pandemic, it was clear that there is a significant need to equip each child in a household with a device. Many students already had a family device at home but found that teacher “office hours” overlapped with their siblings or it became too difficult for families to schedule and manage the use of one device for multiple children.

“We have learned that access to equitable technology is critical for learning and teaching through remote tools,” explains Ron Brown, WSD’s director of technology. “Having students assigned devices will enable us to support their needs both in school and at home. Going 1:1 will support learning for every student regardless of location, demographic or grade level.”

One challenge the district is still working to overcome is that some students still lack access to the internet, making school-issued devices unusable. To address this challenge, the WSD convened a group of utilities, internet service providers, businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations to collaborate and work toward solutions. These meetings have generated a groundswell of partnership and support which has ultimately resulted in lower rate offers from local ISPs, the installation of free public access points in rural parts of the district, availability of mobile hotspots for checkout, and loan of additional devices.

This is an ongoing effort that will continue to be spearheaded by the school district with an eye toward creating a long-term plan to address broadband accessibility in the community.

Diana Haglund is communications director for the Wenatchee School District.