OCPS dealing with a device shortage as digital students seek tablets, laptops

An Orange County family says it’s a struggle to get through the digital school day without enough devices for their kids to learn online.

“It’s putting my child’s education on the back burner,” said dad Darren Santos.

Santos and Channing Freeman say all three of their kids are signed up for LaunchEd@Home through Prairie Lake Elementary School.  

The problem: they say Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) has only provided one device.  

“My daughter... she has the tablet because she’s in kindergarten,” Freeman said.

The parents are scrambling to find a way for their two sons to learn from home.

“Unfortunately, my husband’s job was affected through COVID and so were pulling money out to purchase laptops that aren’t even helping us in this situation,” Freeman said.

The two said the laptop they did purchase doesn’t work with a lot of the school apps.

Still, they’re trying to make do with what they have.

“One child will be able to attend school on a full day and my other son won’t – he would be on my other cell phone, on his i-ready account,” Santos said.

OCPS officials say they are working to make sure all kids have the devices they need.

“We are experiencing a device shortage and this is a national issue – it’s international because of the pandemic,” said OCPS Spokesman Scott Howat.

The district says it’s also gotten backlogged with devices that need repair so it’s requesting all OCPS families consider returning their school-issued device if they don’t need it.  

“What we’re really wanting is families that can do LaunchEd from home with a personal computer or a family computer and their student has a district-issued device to turn that device into the school so they can redeploy that device to a family such as this,” Howat said.

And if you want to help – members of the community who want to donate a computer can contact the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools. Those will go directly to students in need.

District officials say Santos and Freeman’s kids will be receiving laptops this week. They say the school has been working to set them up after the family registered last week.