The Federal Way school district is getting some assistance from a local crowdfunding platform to buy 5,000 laptops for students. It’s an example of the many ways school districts are trying to make sure children have what they need for remote learning.
Amazon donated 8,200 laptops for students in the Seattle school district when school shifted to remote learning in the spring. But Federal Way Superintendent Tammy Campbell said her district’s technology levy only funded a ratio of one computer for every four students, and now the district has to procure more to make sure students can do schoolwork from home. She said South King County is often overlooked when it comes to that kind of corporate generosity.
“When you think about what’s happened with gentrification and many of our poorest students moving south, we don’t see the philanthropy and movement to the south,” she said. Two-thirds of students in the Federal Way district come from low-income families, compared with one-third in Seattle.
The Federal Way district loaned 5,400 computers to students in the spring. To purchase the extra 5,000 machines, the district has teamed up with a crowdfunding platform called Chip-In. The fundraising site was started by Gerald Smiley, who played professional baseball for the Texas Rangers and later worked as a coach at Rainier Beach High School. He lives in Lake Tapps.
The aim is to raise $3 million to pay for the computers. The school district says 100 percent of the funds raised through the site will go toward the computer purchase.
Smiley said Amazon’s donation of computers for Seattle students was “phenomenal,” but he said it made him wonder about students in other parts of the region who lacked the technology necessary for distance learning.
Teaming up with the Federal Way district to buy the machines for students in need “spoke to my heart,” Smiley said.
Campbell said the laptop purchase will help the Federal Way district get closer to having one computer for every two students. The district of 23,000 students also is asking families to purchase a computer for their children if they can afford one.