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The Governor’s COVID-19 Learn from Home Task Force announced during a tele-news conference Thursday that it plans to distribute more than 60,000 donated laptops to students in three waves beginning in early May.

The news of laptop deliveries coincided with Gov. Ned Lamont’s extension of Connecticut school closures to May 20 as the state continues to deal with COVID-19.

“The first thing we realized was that distributing all of these laptops would be a challenge even under normal circumstances,” said Paul Freeman, Task Force co-chair and superintendent of Guilford schools.

But, Freeman added, the news of the laptop donation came just as schools were closing, which complicated the process.

“Our number one priority is safety,” said Desi Nesmith, deputy commissioner of the Department of Education.

After the first set of laptops is delivered in early May, two more deliveries will take place in late May and early June.

In addition, 187,000 book bags, each containing three grade-aligned books for pre-K to grade 8 students, will be delivered to families next week, said Nate Quesnel, Task Force co-chair and superintendent of East Hartford schools. The book bags were donated by children’s book publisher Scholastic.

All of the students receiving donated materials attend Alliance Districts, which comprise Connecticut’s 33 lowest-performing districts and contain 42% of all public-school students.

More specifically, Alliance Districts educate 63% of Connecticut’s students of color, 65% of the state’s low-income students, and 76% of all English Language Learners, according to Quesnel.

Nick Simmons, manager of strategic initiatives for Gov. Lamont, addressed “the third leg” of the Task Force’s initiatives — connectivity. Nearly all of the more than 15 internet service providers in the state have offered customer upgrades at no cost, he said, including some packages that include 60 days of free service.

“We believe the original number of families without connectivity, 8 to 10 percent, has been lowered,” said Simmons. “Connecticut is one of the most wired states in the country.”

The 60,000 laptops were donated by the Partnership for Connecticut, a nonprofit formed between the state and Ray and Barbara Dalio’s Foundation. The Partnership reached agreement earlier this week with Dell to provide the devices at a total cost of “about $23.7 million, including shipping and web filtering service costs.”

Barth Keck is in his 32nd year as an English teacher and 18th year as an assistant football coach at Haddam-Killingworth High School where he teaches courses in journalism, media literacy, and AP English Language & Composition. Follow Barth on Twitter @keckb33 or email him here.

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