The Investigators: Breaking down the cost of bridging Shelby County’s digital divide

The Investigators: Costs of new technology for SCS students

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County students began receiving their laptops and tablets Monday.

The WMC Investigators looked into the cost associated with these devices. Providing 95,000 digital devices and accessories to Shelby County students doesn’t come cheap.

The school district’s four-year deal with Microsoft to rent devices will cost $32,156,654 -- 28,300 tablets to Pre-K through second-grade students at $421.58, 42,000 laptops for third through eighth graders at $481.57.

HP, Inc will receive over $12,769,653 from Shelby County Schools to issue 24,700 laptops for grades nine through twelve.

Each of those devices costs more than $516.99.

“How does the school district plan on repairing and replacing the digital devices it gives students?” asked The Investigators.

“That was all part of the plan,” said Miska Clay Bibbs is Shelby County School Board Chair. “One of the things that was built into the plan that we have is that you expect some things that need to be repaired. That’s a given.”

The school district’s contract with HP, Inc states an HP tech will come onsite to repair devices and there are no limits to service calls.

The Microsoft contract states it’s up to Shelby County Schools to make repairs as needed but according to an SCS spokesperson, the devices are under warranty.

SCS begins handing out devices for virtual learning

As for lost or stolen devices, Computrace software downloaded on each device can remotely locate and lock laptops and tablets.

“That’s one of the things as a board that we said we knew we needed to have,” said Bibbs. “So no different than how you can track your iPhone or iPad, all computers will have a tracker in it.”

A $75 fee will be charged each time a student loses their device.

Lose it four times and a student or parent must replace it themselves.

If a device is stolen, a parent must file a police report and provide that report to their child’s school with 24-hours.

School leaders say they’re speaking with local pawn shops and Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings so that potential thieves are aware if they steal a school-issued device, they won’t get far.

The money to pay for all this technology, which totals $44,926,307, comes from various sources: $28,479,765 will come from CARES Act money and other federal funds, $5 million will come from the City of Memphis and Superintendent Joris Ray identified several revenue streams to make up the remaining $11,446,542.

Those revenue streams include, in part, a $41 per student technology fee, which can be waived for certain students, as well as other state, local and federal funds.

The school board is also considering education advertisements -- ads that would be placed on every device.

Meanwhile, the school district says 24,000 internet hotspots will be handed out to students who meet certain criteria. You can find that criteria here.

The hotspots will be provided by T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T.

The purchase will be funded by CARES Act money and Shelby County School funds and will cost more than $8 million.

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