Schools across the Warren County public school district are in the process of distributing new Chromebooks to their students.

These are the Chromebooks that Warren County Schools ordered in June 2020 in preparation for virtual learning in the 2020-21 school year, but did not begin to receive until January.

North Carolina’s public schools closed in the spring of last year as the COVID-19 pandemic reached the state. Warren County Schools adapted by completing the year with instructional packets, and a number of teachers provided virtual learning opportunities for their students.

Over the summer, the school system prepared for in-person and virtual learning scenarios for the 2020-21 academic year. As virtual learning became the more likely option, Warren County Schools ordered 1,800 Chromebooks in June. The board of education gave its approval for virtual learning the following month.

However, when school began on Aug. 17, the Chromebooks had not arrived. Warren County Schools’ Chief Operations Officer Andre Stewart reported at the time that so many school district across the country and the world had ordered technology due to the ongoing pandemic that many orders were delayed.

Students received instructional packets for the first few weeks in the hopes that the Chromebooks would arrived. When they did not, Warren County Schools distributed the Chromebooks that had been used in the classroom. Students who already had laptops or other devices had the option to use those for their instructional work.

Virtual learning began on Sept. 11, 2020, and continued as the means of education until March, when students had the option to return to the classroom, at least on a partial basis, or continue with virtual learning only.

The new Chromebooks that Warren County Schools had ordered last June began to arrive in January, Stewart said. During the board of education’s April meeting, he reported that these Chromebooks were distributed to individual schools. Stewart added that several schools purchased additional Chromebooks and other technology out of their budgets for reasons that included distribution to teachers and replacement of Career and Technical Education Program Chromebooks that had been sent out to students at the beginning of the school year.

Several board members asked if there was something that prevented schools from letting students exchange the Chromebooks they have been using for new ones, especially since many of them were used. Board chairwoman Ebony Talley-Brame said that she had received phone calls about devices with missing buttons. She and board Vice Chairwoman Victoria Lehman said that the school system had promised students new Chromebooks.

Stewart noted that the new Chromebooks are being kept at the schools, but said it would be an “easy swap” for schools to allow students to exchange their old devices for new ones. The only problem would be if students had damaged or destroyed the Chromebooks, and parents would have to pay for the damage.

Stewart said that schools would need to coordinate the exchange process, and board members were quick to ask for Chromebook replacement to begin.

“Let’s make this happen,” Talley-Brame said. “Let’s do what we can to support the young people with brand new Chromebooks.”

“In the (board meeting) minutes in June, it says a Chromebook was ordered for each student,” Lehman added.

Since that time, individual schools have been making plans for how they will allow students to exchange their Chromebooks for the new ones. For example, Northside K-8 School held an exchange event last week. Events like this or other plans for distributing new Chromebooks will continue.