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Nationwide laptop, device shortage impacting metro Detroit schools

US official mulling greatly expanded airplane laptop ban
Posted at 6:40 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 19:14:04-04

BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — There is now a nationwide laptop and device shortage. It is causing huge challenges for schools struggling to get orders filled as they prepare for distance learning.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shut down of schools Bloomfield Hills Schools and Rochester Community Schools took action right away.

In April Bloomfield Hills ordered 2,000 Chrome Books. The Rochester Community School District ordered 11,000 Chrome Books in May. Now the question is when they will get them.

“It was August and then we were pushed back to back to September. And now we are pushed back to December,” said Cindy Lindner, Executive Director of Technology & Strategic Initiatives for Rochester Community Schools.

The Bloomfield Hills School District is hearing the same thing.

“We hearing dates of hopefulness around November/December, but honestly we could see it pushing past the first of the year in the first quarter,” said David Shulkin, Director of Learning Technology in Bloomfield Hills Schools.

This is a problem. Students doing virtual learning need devices.

“We have 15,000 students in the district and only 4,000 devices currently,” said Lindner.

“We have a roughly 1,800 device deficit for the district,” said Shulkin.

Suppliers say it is driven by a combination of demand increases due to COVID-19 and U.S. sanctions on Chinese suppliers caught committing human rights violations.

The US State Department estimates that since 2015 about 2 million Muslim majority Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have been imprisoned for their religion or culture and forced to work in Chinese factories, some of which supplied major technology companies.

Now schools are left doing what you could call technology triage.

“We’ve partnered with our community really. We have asked if they do have a device, please use that,” said Lindner.

“We’re obviously prioritizing families in need that might not have anything at all,” said Shulkin.

Some schools were lucky. They happened to place an order with a supplier with inventory. But others are in a jam.

To give you an idea of how big of a problem this is, the Associated Press reports that Lenovo, HP, and Dell, have told school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops.