Salem schools to receive 1,500 new laptops

·2 min read

Oct. 6—SALEM, N.H. — A shipment of 1,500 new laptops and other equipment will be delivered to Salem schools thanks to funding from the federal government's American Rescue Plan.

Salem got word that it would receive $414,000 from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, a $7.1 billion program intended to help schools and libraries provide for communities nationwide during the pandemic. The first filing window, which closed August 13, attracted applications from all 50 states.

Deborah Payne, the assistant superintendent for business operations, said existing Chromebooks purchased in 2016 were "no longer eligible for support, so they needed to be replaced or removed from service."

In addition to the laptops, Payne said the money helped buy three additional hotspots for Salem students without stable internet access at home. Forty others are currently in use.

"We have made the purchases and will be issuing the replacement Chromebooks to students this fall," Payne said.

The district is left to pay $44,000 for Chromebook licenses, which were not covered by the federal funding, according to Payne.

She explains that before the pandemic, there was one device for every two students. Devices mostly stayed at school and were used in classrooms.

Some equipment lasted for the duration of the pandemic year, when remote learning was an option in Salem, but "quite a few units" needed to be retired coming into this year.

"We found that for some students the home computer was shared with others in the household so they could not use it at all times needed," Payne said.

For others, she said, personal equipment wasn't capable of processing instructional tools that a district-provided Chromebook could. Each device is also configured so the district's technology team can help students having problems remotely.

"These funds enabled the district to replace those outdated units so that each student has their own device to stay connected to school resources from home," Payne said.

Congress authorized the Emergency Connectivity Fund as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. For eligible schools and libraries, reasonable costs of laptops and tables, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and broadband connectivity are covered.

According to an interactive online map kept by federal officials, total funding requests out of New Hampshire total just over $5.5 million. Most of that has been for equipment, with shy of $400,000 sought for services.

The amount is just a fraction of requests coming from neighboring Massachusetts, records show. A total of $61.4 million breaks down to $47.5 million in equipment requests and $13.8 million for services.

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