Detroit Schools Computing Program Delivers Laptops, Hope To Students


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One of the first things De’Antre Mitchell noticed about his new tablet-style laptop in school was that it really was his.

“I thought we would get some type of electronic device,” said De’Antre, 17, of Detroit. “I had no idea we were going to be able to take him home and own him.”

Mitchell will be in his final year at Detroit Central High School this fall. He plans to become an electrician and a contractor, using his skills to rehabilitate homes and sell them for a profit.

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He is one of thousands of students in the Detroit Public School Community District who have received a new laptop, with Internet connections. The students keep the devices: iView computers with 10.1-inch touchscreens and removable keyboards. They run Windows 10 software with a suite of programs, including Microsoft Teams, which enables teleconferencing and online collaboration.

The machines were paid for under the Connected Futures program, an effort launched in April to bridge the digital divide in Detroit, a city where about 47% of children live in poverty, according to U.S. Census data.

Detroit Connected Futures, a Detroit public school program, has helped students use tablet-style laptops.

DTE Energy, Quicken Loans, General Motors and the Skillman and Kellogg Foundations led a fundraising campaign that raised $ 23 million in less than a month. The idea was to connect Detroit students to online learning while schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have taken an important step in our efforts to bridge the digital divide that affects our city’s future leaders,” said Jerry Norcia, President and CEO of DTE Energy. “This funding will allow us to continue to foster positive change that will be remembered as a turning point in Detroit’s history. I am grateful for the efforts of DPSCD and our coalition of business and philanthropic organizations to make this possible.

Officials said they were starting with Detroit public schools, but hoped eventually to expand it to other Detroit students who attend charter schools.

School superintendent Nikolai Vitti said at the time that the machines would facilitate online learning during the shutdown, but also change the district permanently, resulting in fewer textbooks, notebooks exercises and lighter backpacks. Mayor Mike Duggan touted the plan as a chance to connect everyone in Detroit to the internet, even allowing people like parents who are struggling to re-enter the workforce to apply online for jobs and benefits. .

Vitti said in a statement this week that the deployment appeared to be going well. De’Antre picked up his device earlier this month from his school after responding to an electronic school district questionnaire to ensure its eligibility. He said he got in and out of the building within minutes.

For security reasons, the district has not said publicly when and where the devices will be distributed. Instead, he contacted the students individually with the details of the pickup.

“We have started the rollout process with our high schools so that graduates can pick up their devices before leaving for college or entering the workplace,” Vitti said. “We also started with high schools so that seniors who had to take summer school to graduate have a device and Internet access to take their lessons.”

One senior who graduated was Assiana Franklin, a Salvatorian at East English Village High School who will be attending Eastern Michigan University in the fall.

“It’s very fast and I can take it with me wherever I go,” she said. “It’s really cute.”

Franklin had an older model of a laptop that was too heavy to carry most of the time. He got slower with age and eventually couldn’t keep up. Still, she was happy to have something when many of her classmates were not connected.

“Most children don’t have access to the Internet or don’t have computers,” she said. “Most families can’t afford it. You give them hope for the future.”

Contact John Wisely: 313-222-6825 or [email protected] On Twitter @jwisely

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Gordon K. Morehouse