Buffalo schools open with laptop shortage

Less than half the laptops the district issued last year are updated and ready for use. Some were returned infested with bedbugs.

Some 31,000 Buffalo students are preparing to go back to school next week, but the district’s IT department isn’t quite ready for them.

Fewer than half of the 15,000 laptops the district issued to students last year have been returned to the district to be serviced and made compatible with system updates.

As a result, only a fraction of students will be fully equipped to jump into the school year.

The rest may have to wait until October for functional devices.

At the end of the school year the district asked families to return student devices like iPads, laptops and hotspots used for remote learning to their designated schools so the IT department could update and service them to ensure they’d be operational in September.

Around 7,000 of the 15,000 laptops in student hands have been returned and serviced.

Where are the other 8,000 or so? Most are likely in the homes of students who attended the district’s summer school programming.

“We’re hoping they magically show up on the first day of school,” one source said.

The district set up several days for families to return devices. High school student devices were collected on June 16 and 21, and elementary school student devices were collected on June 24 and 25. Those who couldn’t make the trip to schools on those days were offered a drive-through drop-off option on June 22, 23, 24 and 25.

Around 300 of the 7,000 devices returned during this time were infested with bedbugs. Those devices, a source said, are being stored in a van and will be baked at a low temperature to rid them of bugs.


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Students in summer school were told to hold onto their devices until programming ended. The last of Buffalo’s summer programming concluded on August 20, leaving only a couple short weeks for devices to be collected and serviced at the district’s South Park Avenue tech center.

One source said that’s not nearly enough time.

“There’s not enough manpower in the world,” the source said. “There’s no physical way to do it.”

The district warned families that devices not turned in for servicing won’t work with the school’s updated systems. One source said that without the proper reconfigurations, students could run into issues like outdated programs, missing software and inability to connect to the wireless network, leaving them behind on learning from the jump.

School board member Larry Scott weighed in on the issue in an interview Thursday morning with WBEN.

“Our parents who have these devices in their home, they need to get them back to our IT department on South Park Avenue so that we can sanitize them, get them re-imaged and get them back out to students,” he said.


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Scott said around 7,000 laptops haven’t been returned. The district ordered 14,000 new devices, but they aren’t expected to arrive until late October due to supply chain issues.

While Scott urged families to get their devices turned in, he said he wasn’t concerned about students not having the technology needed for the start of classes.

“I speak as a parent here. I think our kids have spent plenty of time on devices, so anytime that they’re not with a device to begin this year, in my opinion, is not anything that I’m very concerned about,” Scott said.

“They need that in-person interaction…a little bit of a delay, not having a device at this point, is not a huge issue.”