Duval County Public Schools selling laptops for $50 to narrow ‘digital divide’

computer coding

In a large, urban school district like Duval County — where fully half the kids in the public schools are on free or reduced lunch — poverty is real, and widespread. The achievement gap remains stubborn and formidable.

And one of the many obstacles kids in poor districts have to learning is the infamous “digital divide,” which has been an issue in low-income Northeast Florida households for years.

Later this summer, the Duval County Public Schools will attempt to narrow the divide with its DCPS Laptop Recovery Program. Students will be able to purchase a used but fully functional laptop for $50. Employees of the school district can get one for $75.

We’ve had an infusion of new laptops,” says Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

“Three years ago we were at 3-to-1 as far as device-per-student. Now we’re at about 1.5-to-1. And we’ve had to move out a lot of our older computers and laptops,” he told WJCT. “They’re fully functional.”

Vitti says use of the laptops will increase student access to blended learning and online educational resources. It’s also revenue for the school district, which currently sends old technology devices to a recycler for $20 bucks a pop.

The program should launch in late summer or early fall. Each month a new high school will be used as a Saturday pickup site.

After a series of news cycles dealing with everything from lawsuits over transgender bathroom access in schools, to controversy over testing, and more, the laptop program is an easy layup for Vitti and should prove very popular.


Melissa Ross

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at [email protected].


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