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Laptop Shortages Leave School Districts Scrambling

A Rapid Shift to Remote Learning

School districts across the country are scrambling to equip students with laptops as many schools begin the year partially or fully online. Some schools were expecting to have in-person learning in the fall, and made the decision to move online just weeks before school started. They are now ordering laptops and facing delays due to supply chain disruptions and surging demand.

In Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Missouri, Nevada, Alabama, and other states, tens of thousands of students may not have the devices they need to start school.

Low-Cost Laptops Are Scarce

Supplies are particularly tight for low-cost laptops. The Chromebook, made by Google (GOOGL), costs less than $300, and is a very popular computer for school districts and parents to purchase for students. Even before the pandemic, about 30 million Chromebooks were used in schools across the world. That number skyrocketed as schools moved online, and Chromebook manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the spike in demand.

At Best Buy (BBY), only about 16% of laptops available cost less than $500. Wealthier parents can splurge on laptops for their children this year, but low-income students whose school districts are unable to provide laptops for them may face significant hardships as school begins. Educators are worried about the long-term impact this year could have on many students’ futures.

Districts Find Creative Solutions

School districts and teachers are going to great lengths to find creative ways to deal with the laptop shortage and ensure that students get the support they need.

Some are adapting their educational tools so they can be used on mobile phones, not just on laptops. For students who do not have access to WiFi, some districts are using school busses as hotspots. Many districts are hopeful that their laptops will arrive soon, but until then, students, parents, and teachers, are up against yet another challenge as they begin a school year like no other.

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