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Educationby Ian Round2:29 pmAug 19, 20200

Beginning Monday, City Schools will distribute laptops and hotspots through schools

North Avenue was criticized for making families wait outside during last month’s heat advisory to get devices

Above: Baltimore will start distributing laptops to students at their schools. (@baltcityschools)

Public school students and families can pick up free laptops and hotspots at their own schools starting Monday, meaning they won’t have to journey over to the Baltimore City Public Schools central office on North Avenue.

The decision comes after City Schools faced widespread criticism for forcing families to wait outside the North Avenue headquarters for hours – during a heat advisory and a pandemic – without providing shade or water.

“I’m so grateful that families will get what they need in a more convenient and safe manner,” said Erica Hamlett, who brought attention to the heat and long lines on Facebook Live.

The announcement came Aug. 17.

UPDATE: City Schools says “we have no excuses” for making families wait in the heat (7/28/20)

Spokeswoman Gwendolyn Chambers said the administration was moving toward school-based distribution in late July, after acknowledging the distribution at North Avenue was a bad call.

“The large increase in the volume of families coming each day to North Avenue has made it difficult to meet current social distancing guidelines and have sufficient, climate-controlled space for families and students,” reads a statement on the City Schools website.

“By providing these important items at school, we can reduce the large crowds and serve you better while also taking time to prepare our schools and staff for the transition.”

Masks and IDs are required. Charter school students are not eligible to receive devices.

The statement does not include the days and hours you can stop by. Chambers said officials at each school will let their families know when they can pick up the equipment.

Need Devices or Internet?

The beginning of the fall semester is around the corner, and all instruction will be online at least until mid-October, due to the continuing threat of Covid. That means students without internet access will not have access to public education.

Before the pandemic started, and City Schools began distributing tens of thousands of Chromebooks and hotspots, researchers estimated nearly half of Baltimore’s students weren’t online.

A wave of activism has pushed City Schools, City Hall and Comcast to try to close the digital divide since Covid restrictions kept students out of classrooms and libraries.

City Schools invites families to contact its Summer Learning hotline at 443-984-2001, or email reopening@bcps.k12.md.us with the student’s name, school, and the device needed.

Also, the registration window for new students is now open. Register here.

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