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Thousands of Pinellas students pick up laptops, tablets for online learning

Posted: 3:44 PM, Mar 24, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-24 17:50:16-04
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PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — From classroom to computer. Thousands of Pinellas County students spent the day Tuesday picking up laptops and tablets and gearing up for the first day of online learning, which will begin Monday, March 30.

Campbell Park Elementary School, and schools across the district, set up a drive through device pickup. In less than 10 minutes, parents or guardians were able to pick up a laptop/tablet, pens, notepads and snacks for students without even leaving the comfort of their cars.

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Pinellas County School District leaders plan to give out between 15,000-20,000 laptops between Tuesday and Wednesday.

3rd grader Darnell Golden couldn’t be more giddy about getting back to schoolwork. He was all smiles as Campbell Park Elementary staff handed him a laptop through the backseat car window.

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“I miss school 100%,” he said with a smile. “It’s awesome because I’m back at school and I’m happy to see my teachers!”

His mom, Darice Mack says she’s happy to be able to keep her children, ages 8 and 3 home and safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. “I’m no good with computers, but I’m going to learn today,” she said with a hearty laugh.

This week, Pinellas County is focused on testing out the software and making sure students are equipped with devices and free wifi to learn. On March 30, digital learning will begin.

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Vanessa Hammond, a St. Petersburg mom with 3 school aged children, decided to take a break from work to stay home with her kids.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to all work out right now. I’m just not going to work during the day because they need me, but I think we can handle it,” she said.

District leaders tell ABC Action News each student, without access to a device at home, will get their own laptop or tablet.

At first, students won’t need to follow a strict schedule, and can work at their own pace, logging into the online system on their schedule. As students, parents and teachers get more comfortable, the district will ramp up lessons.

“We don’t expect a family with 3 or 4 students at home to all be on the computer at once listening to live lessons, and we’re flexible because we know many parents are working from home as well right now,” Kevin Hendrick, the Associate Superintendent of Learning explained.

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Darnell Golden can’t wait to get started. “I’m happy that my teacher is still teaching me even though I’m not in her classroom now,” he said with a smile.

For parents who can’t make it to one of the drive up sites to pick up a laptop, Pinellas County School District leaders plan to offer late afternoon pickup options or even to send teachers and school employees individually to parents’ homes to drop off electronics.

School district leaders offered this help for parents:

1. Parents can review this webpage for resources: http://www.pcsb.org/Page/32734

2. It’s important for parents to know their students R2D2 number and password so they can log onto the digital learning software

3. The district has set up a Digital Learning Helpline at 727-588-6060