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Schools (and parents) confront laptop shortage



Students may lack devices for online learning

schools, laptops, shortage, students


As schools gear up to start the academic year with remote learning, some students may not have the necessary equipment to access their online classes and assignments. Predicted delivery delays of several months have been reported by school districts across the country, according to sources contacted by the Associated Press
 

Sales of Chromebooks and other low-cost computing devices surged this spring when the pandemic hit and schools went from in-person to remote learning. With supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19, delays were already beginning.

On July 20, the Trump administration announced sanctions against Chinese companies said to be involved in such human rights abuses as forced labor, directed against the Uighur Muslim minority. Among the companies penalized is a manufacturer of components for low-cost Lenovo laptops. Lenovo has notified customers that the sanctions are contributing to delays in delivery.

Many school districts supply devices to students. Administrators say the shortage, which may persist into early 2021 in some cases, will interfere with education for these students. Also lacking are hotspots for Internet connections, vital for families who can't afford routers or who live in areas where broadband is not available.

See the HVP report on the status of broadband in the Hudson Valley.

One industry expert, Mikako Kitagawa of Gartner, Inc., noted that the pandemic caused shutdowns of Chinese computer factories in February and March, interrupting the supply of devices. When factories began to reopen, they were flooded by orders from corporations and government agencies whose employees were working from home, at the same time that school districts needed more computers. Many districts expected to return to in-person schooling this fall and did not order laptops until late in the summer.

A California poll revealed that among the state's 1100 school districts, there are 300,000 computers on back order. Districts in all regions of the country are waiting for shipment of laptops. Estimated delivery dates vary from October to December and are constantly changing.

Consumers are also affected by the shortage. On its website, Best Buy offers 36 models of Chromebooks priced under $500. This week, 33 of those models were marked as sold out. You could also could consider refurbished machines.



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