Maine School Administrative District 49 recently enlisted the help of local law enforcement agencies to distribute laptops to elementary students while schools are shut down due to the coronavirus.

Elementary students had access to a laptop in their classrooms for “one-on-one computing, but since distance learning began in March, administrators thought it would be beneficial for students to have the devices in their homes.

Robert Hersom. Contributed photo

“Our elementary principals contacted families to see if there was an interest to have the devices in their homes,” Superintendent Roberta Hersom said in an email. “Our initial response from families led to the deployment of over 400 devices.”

MSAD 49 serves the towns of Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield with 770 students in grades 2-6.

Officers from the Clinton Police Department, Fairfield Police Department,  Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and the district’s resource officer, Jeremy Day, delivered the laptops to students April 2 and 3.

Chief Tom Gould with the Fairfield Police Department said he and Officer Casey Dugas delivered more than 100 laptops in Fairfield alone.

“After the schools shut down, we had reached out to the district and asked if they had any issues and if they needed any assistance,” Gould said during a phone call on Wednesday. “So we agreed to distribute these laptops. We took our own cruisers, split up and delivered I think around 100 devices …

“It was a lot of fun seeing all the kids, too. Of course we couldn’t spend much time with them because of social distancing, but we got a really good response from everyone.”

Junior high and high school students in the district also have laptops, but already had them in their possession when schools shut down.

“Our junior and senior high students keep the devices in their possession, while 2-6 students have them available in their classrooms,” Hersom said.

Since the laptops were distributed last week, the district is already seeing an increase in online engagement, according to Hersom.

I believe students and their families are pleased,” Hersom said. “And elementary teachers are reporting to principals higher online engagement.”

Hersom said she expects more families to request devices, and the district is prepared to make more deliveries.

Benton Elementary is one of three elementary schools in MSAD 49. Police distributed laptops to the homes of some 400 elementary students April 2 and 3 so they could pursue their studies online. Portland Press Herald file photo by Brianna Soukup

“We are so fortunate,” Hersom said. “Our staff, our students and their families are working through this new online learning environment. With creative approaches and our Tech Team serving as a tremendous support, we are making progress with access and comfort with this platform.”

The district has offered a list of resources for families without internet connection, which can be found on its website.

In addition to the laptop distribution, MSAD 49 has set up a meal program to help students and families while schools are shut down due to coronavirus.

Since it was launched on March 17, the program has been serving free meals to children under 18 and expectant mothers from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.

“Grab and go” breakfast and lunch are available for pickup at all schools in the district: Albion Elementary, Benton Elementary, Clinton Elementary, Fairfield Primary, Lawrence Junior High School and Lawrence High School. Additional meal pickup locations can be found online.

The state’s commissioner of education recommended on Tuesday that schools should continue distance learning for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.

“We are planning to continue to use the remote learning format until we receive notice from the Maine CDC, Gov. Mills and Commissioner Makin that it is safe to re-open our school buildings,” Hersom said.


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