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District 65 students to receive free computers

A Chromebook computer.

Students in the Evanston-Skokie elementary school district will receive free computers next week, the first time the district has made such devices available to all its pupils.

District 65 begins classes on Thursday, all remotely, so computers are required. And not all children have them. District Spokesperson Melissa Messinger tells Evanston Now “this is to help ensure every child has access to the tools they need for a successful start to the school year and to help remove any potential barriers to learning.”

The devices, either a Chromebook or iPad, depending on a student’s year in school, will be distributed Monday and Tuesday, at various District 65 buildings.

The students can keep their computers through the entire 2020-21 school year, whether the district stays on remote education all year, or returns to in-person classes in late September. (Even if in-person classes do resume, families will have the option of remaining with remote learning). Computers will be provided to pre-kindergarten through grade six students, as well as children who are new to the district. Seventh and eight graders, the district says, should still have the devices given to them last year.

Computers are not inexpensive, however, Messinger says District 65 was able to purchase several thousand of them without going over the district’s existing technology budget, due to extremely low interest rates.

Of course, computers do not do much good if you can’t use them for access to school. Messinger says the district is “working to issue hot spots to families who need connectivity.” She says the district will also provide information about low-cost internet providers, and is “exploring community partnerships for additional support.”

The district will also distribute school supplies at the same time computers are picked up. While supplies are covered by general student fees paid by families, the district will provide packets of things like folders, notebooks, and pencils, making sure students of all income groups are provided with the same items.

One last bit of good news for students. The district is asking kids to return overdue library books when they pick up their computers, no questions asked, and no late fees charged.

To find out where and when your child can pick up a computer and school supplies, go to the district’s web site, District65.net.

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Jeff Hirsh

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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