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Paterson School District Unsure If All Students Will Be Equipped With Laptops In Time For Virtual Classes

PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - The Paterson school board voted late Wednesday night to change the school district's hybrid learning plan. It will now be completely virtual until at least October.

The superintendent said thousands of students may have to start the year without a laptop, CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported.

Yolanda Harris, a mother, was not happy when she found out her four children will start the school year learning entirely from home.

"It's gonna be hard because they need that interaction with the school," she said.

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It will be especially hard for Harris's nine and eight-year-old sons, not to mention thousands of other public school students. There are concerns they may not be getting the Chromebook the schools ordered for them until weeks after the school year begins.

"The Chromebook will help because, if the teacher's on Zoom, they're able to talk to the teacher and interact with their friends still in the classroom. But, it's still hard," said Harris.

"Normally, it's you don't have the money. We have the money. We can't get the product," said Eileen Shafer, Paterson school superintendent.


In June, Paterson schools used $3 million in funding from the CARES Act to buy nearly 14,000 Chromebooks with built-in Wi-Fi. They were expected to be delivered in August.

Lenovo, the manufacturer, informed the schools the laptops will not arrive until after October.

Lenovo said the company in China that puts the devices together was shut down due to human rights violations.

Shafer said her historically underfunded district can't catch a break.

"We desperately needed the money to close the digital divide," she said. "When we received the money, I thought 'Wow! Now we have Wi-Fi for everyone. We have a device for everyone.'"

"When this happened, it was one of those things that keeps me up at night," said Shafer.

Thanks to previous donations, including 100 Chromebooks from former New York Giants player Victor Cruz, every high school student will have a device.

The school is refurbishing old computers for students to use temporarily. But, they're still about 4,000 short.

It's mostly elementary school students who don't have a Chromebook, Shafer said . The plan is to send them weekly paper packets of schoolwork if they still don't have a device in time.

Shafer said she has several leads from companies that might be able to help. For now, it's a waiting game.

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