Cherry Creek buys thousands of computers for students

Purchase enables schools to reach '1 to 1' ratio of students to devices, district says

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As remote learning came to define the pandemic for students in Colorado, Cherry Creek School District loaned students nearly 7,000 laptop devices in spring 2020 and followed that with 6,500 additional laptops last fall semester.

Now, the district is preparing to distribute even more devices for the coming school year after it purchased thousands more in pursuit of a “one to one” initiative to ensure every one of its roughly 55,000 students has access to a computer.

District staff recommended that the Cherry Creek school board approve the purchase of roughly 16,000 devices, according to the agenda for the May 10 school board meeting. The request also included purchasing 2,500 devices to “refresh” the supply of technology used by staff, the agenda says.

The purchase cost the district $10.9 million, an amount that was budgeted and came from the district's capital construction, maintenance, and technology fund, according to the agenda.

“The past year of remote learning illuminated the inequities of access to technology in education, both online learning and in person,” the district wrote in the agenda. “Although Cherry Creek School District (CCSD) purchased thousands of devices at the beginning of the pandemic, it was not enough to provide a 1:1 (student to device) learning opportunity.”

Under the 1:1 ratio for students in grades 1 through 12, the new devices will be combined with the district's existing supply to be distributed to students at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. The purchase of about 16,000 devices from Dell and Microsoft enables the 1:1 initiative and starts the district on a rotation of cycling roughly 25% of the student devices each year — meaning devices are expected to have a four-year life cycle.

Similarly, the district plans to move the “refreshing” of certain staff devices toward replacing 25% of the devices per year. The request also included technology purchases for high school and middle school lab refreshes, the agenda says.

The district's lending of laptops to students last year was well short of covering most of Cherry Creek's roughly 55,000 students, but all students who needed a laptop and let their school know that they needed a laptop received one, according to Abbe Smith, spokesperson for the district. In 2020, the district sent out a survey via text and email to identify families in need of technology.

“With the purchase of 16,000 devices, we will have enough devices to ensure every one of our 55,000 students has access to a computer,” Smith said.

The district is working on preparing the current and new 55,000 devices for distribution, Smith said in mid-July.

“We anticipate providing the 1:1 devices out to students within the first few weeks of school,” Smith said.

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