Diversity & Inclusion
COVID-19 / Digital access / Education / Funding

Technologists and nonprofits united to provide laptops for a Baltimore elementary school

The Baltimore Robotics Center in collaboration with Nyla Technology Solutions purchased 64 Chromebooks for Collington Square Elementary School through PCs for People. A new remote school year is bringing a new push for digital access.

Student laptops, ready to be delivered. (Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Robotics Center)

As virtual learning continues into a new school year, tech community partnerships are continuing to come together to fill gaps in digital access.

The Baltimore Robotics Center, in collaboration with Mt. Vernon-based software and cybersecurity services firm Nyla Technology Solutions, provided 64 Chromebooks to Collington Square Elementary/Middle School in East Baltimore in time for the start of online classes last week.

The Chromebooks were purchased from PCs for People, an organization that refurbishes devices and provides them to low income residents at little to no cost. The total may not seem like a lot, as an Abell Foundation report released in May found that 15,000 households in the city do not have a computer. But the nation is facing a Chromebook laptop shortage as the world continues to remote learning in the pandemic, so the ability to bring new devices into use is meaningful.

In Baltimore, the needs put a focus on the city public school district’s distribution of 20,000 Chromebooks by July. City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises told WYPR‘s On the Record this morning that the district has had delays with device shipments, and is expecting about 10K devices to come in between this week and next.

In the bigger picture, every school district is ordering laptops to provide to their students. Chicago ordered 37,000 Chromebooks and Boston ordered 20,000 back in April. Back then, Boston was warned to buy now, or there may not be any inventory left, according to Education Week. We’re in that future.

Ed Mullin, executive director of the Baltimore Robotics Center, was part of a grassroots response effort to get donated laptops into the hands of city students when the pandemic first arrived. While more orgs have stepped up and new partnerships have formed since then, it’s clear that the reason for the work continues.

“I’m not really in the laptop refurb business,” said Mullin. “But a bunch of us in other nonprofits got involved in this because there was such a huge need.”

Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.
Companies: Baltimore City Robotics Center / Baltimore City Public Schools

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