Buffalo school families reminded to care for remote devices

“It is their life line to learning"
Posted at 6:31 PM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 22:12:03-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — “The district has absorbed a cost — a cost of well over half a million dollars,” declared Myra Burden, chief technology officer, Buffalo Public School District.

Myra Burden, chief technology officer, Buffalo Public School District, in Zoom interview.

The Buffalo School District is issuing a warning to school families about damaged devices being used in remote learning.

A majority of city school students are still at home for learning during the pandemic.

Hundreds of laptops and iPads have been destroyed.

Burden said over a half million was spent to repair and replace computers and iPads used across district-wide.

Buffalo school device.

“Smart Schools dollars is what we used to support the access to technology and distributing that technology to our students,” replied Burden. “

Burden said the school district issued a letter to school families as a reminder to take care of the devices.

“The letter was intended to emphasize the importance of taking extraordinary great care of those devices,” Burden explained. “So we hope they will understand and know the process and guidelines, and potential consequences if devices are damaged and destroyed.”

Letter issued to Buffalo Public School families.

In the letter, the city school district outlined damaged devices:

  • Total of 1,090 computer devices have been damaged since the beginning of the school year.
  • 35 percent are laptops
  • 65 percent are iPads
  • 865 were damaged or destroyed since November 1.

Buffalo schools were fully remote until February 1.

The city school district has already handed out more then 30,000 devices to city school students since the start of the pandemic.

Keith Jones, city school parent, in a Zoom interview.

“As parents — we should be responsible for that device,” remarked Keith Jones, city school parent.

Jones, a Buffalo school parent of a senior attending Bennett’s Innovation High School, reacted to the district letter.

The district urges parents to report lost or stolen iPads. It says it has also replaced more than 1,400 power cords and now says power cords will only be replaced at no charge if the old power cord is returned at time of requested replacement.

Jone says some families can't afford to replace a $30 power cord.

“No — that part the district needs to stand up for — you know because that's you know wear and tear,” replied Jones.

Jessica Bauer Walker, school parent, in Zoom interview.

“A lot of families don't have the funds to pay — a lot of our families have a hard time even getting over to the building that they need to go to get replacement devices,” said Jessica Bauer Walker, school parent.

Bauer Walker has two children, sixth and eighth grader at International School 45.

She says the district has been clear about equity and trauma informed through out the pandemic. However, she’s critical of the letter.

"The letter that they sent — honestly — it doesn’t read in that type of way,” Bauer Walker responded.

The school district said damage devices will be assessed on a “case-by-case basis” to determine if a replacement will be issued.

Buffalo Public School District's Center for Technology in south Buffalo.

It will also be determined if there will be a financial obligation for a family if there are repeat issues or intent to damage or destroy the devices.

7 Eyewitness News asked Burden if the majority of the damage to devices that occurred after November first would have been the same rate if students had returned to more in-school learner soon.

Myra Burden, chief technology officer, Buffalo Public School District, in Zoom interview.

“That device would have still had to go home with a student — I can’t say the damage or damages — to these devices would not have occurred,” answered Burden.

The district noted, regardless of when the damage occurred, it is asking for families to be careful with the devices.

Buffalo Public School billboard on Bailey Avenue showing student on device.

“It is their life line to learning — that computer device equates to times past — a text book,” described Burden.