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Syracuse school district says laptops available, as some parents say they're still waiting

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Caspian Pierce stands with his mother, Samantha, outside of the STEAM at Dr. King Elementary School.

Some parents, religious leaders, former teachers and activists are voicing anger at what they say is a lack of proper resources, technology and scheduling as online classes begin in the Syracuse City School District. Students Pre-K through 12th grade in the district are all doing remote learning through at least Oct. 2.

Samantha Pierce has four children in the district. She’s waiting on a laptop for one son in special education and she said his teachers are still waiting on a solid schedule.

“We are tired,” Pierce said. “My patience is gone. My children deserve a robust education. They deserve every piece of technology they need to participate in their education. Their teachers deserve the kind of leadership that doesn’t leave them frazzled at the last minute, trying to make a plan for how they are going to take care of their students.”

Pierce’s 10-year-old son, Caspian, joined her outside of the STEAM at Dr. King Elementary School with a handful of others also voicing their concern, as remote learning begins. He was unable to log in to class, Monday morning.

“I’m feeling frustrated, that I couldn’t get into class,” Caspian said.

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media
WRVO Public Media
Reverend Max Jones leads a prayer with concerned parents and other members of the National Action Network.

Pastor Dereck Galloway asked why Syracuse city students are systemically disadvantaged, while other school districts in the area are not.

“I have two grandchildren that go to school in Baldwinsville, both of them received their laptops last week,” Galloway said. “We still have children here that are not receiving their laptops.”

A spokesperson for Syracuse city schools said there are enough devices available; all families who filled out a questionnaire in need of a hotspot or laptop, were sent one to their child’s school. Some devices are still waiting at the schools. The district is working through a second round of distributing items, as some families did not fill out a questionnaire and are now making requests. The district still has more than 400 hotspots and 2,500 laptops available and more on backorder.

The spokesperson did not hear about any specific scheduling issues with special education. Login information with instructions were sent to every family in the mail and the information is also online. In a statement, Superintendent Jaime Alicea said while there will be challenges, the district will work with families on any concerns.

Read Alicea’s full statement below.

“We are excited to welcome back our over 20,000 students virtually on Monday, September 14th for the 2020-21 school year. I am proud of the work that our staff has done to prepare for this school year. They have spent time over the summer and these past two weeks in professional development learning how to prepare engaging and exciting virtual lessons for our students. Like most school years, there will be challenges on opening day and we will continue to work with our families on any concerns that come up. I am looking forward to a great year and want to express my thanks to all of our staff, students and families for their flexibility and collaboration as we navigate this school year.”

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.