'It was a blessing': Orange County teachers help students get laptops 

Winter Park High School teachers are putting together a device drive to collect laptops for students who need them. 

Winter Park High School Senior Walesa Charles is on the waitlist for a laptop. Charles said without a laptop he could not submit his assignments online and felt like he was falling behind. 

"I couldn’t really do anything during school hours," Charles said. "I was just sitting in class stressing, really stressing. Because I do sports and I have to have my grades up there." 

His teacher Kate Demory decided to give him her own laptop to use, while he waits for one from the district. 

"It was a blessing," said Charles. "Me having a laptop really changed everything. It literally flipped the switch." 

According to Demory, 200 students at Winter Park High School are waiting on laptops. The Orange County Classroom Teachers Association says more than 1,000 students in the district do not have a school-issued laptop. OCPS said it could not confirm that number, "because devices are managed at the school level on a case-by-case basis there is no record at the district level." 

"Sitting at week five or six for some students to not have access at all is very concerning," Demory said. 

Demory and her husband, Craig Russell, started a device drive through their non-profit, Army of Angels. They've collected 18 devices so far. 

"Having a laptop or device is the same thing as having a composition notebook paper and pencil back in the day. It can change a kids life in this day and age," Russell said. 

They've teamed up with Aeres Technologies to help them collect and wipe the computers and tablets. 

"We’re in this unique opportunity with the line of work we’re in to get devices and redeploy them in the education space. And we’re in such a unique time in the world of COVID. Why would we not do this?" said CEO of Aeras Technologies David Collins. 

OCPS Officials say the district has a shortage and they're working to make sure all students have devices. The district said in a statement: 

“There is a worldwide shortage of computer parts and replacement devices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are working with our vendors to acquire the additional replacement devices and parts. We have asked for families that have devices at home and are not in need of a district issued device, turn those back into their school. Students are able to use their personal devices to access their classes and lessons on LaunchEd by logging on the web. We are asking that if there are any members of the community that have a laptop or desktop computer that they would like to donate, we ask that they contact the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools. Those devices will be given directly to a student in need of a computer.”

People can also donate their devices at the Army of Angels & Aeras Foundation drive here: 
Date: Saturday, September 26, 2020
Time: 9am-12pm 
Where: 1923 Summerfield Road, Winter Park, Florida 32792