Metal racks filled with open laptops. Man working on one.Prior to the school closures, Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) had already developed a digital equity plan to provide students equal access and opportunity to digital tools, resources, and services. Information Technology Services (ITS) was set to roll out the plan by providing new devices to students starting with middle schools. However, the plan changed when learning moved online.

"We needed to shift our priorities to ensure all seniors had devices so they could complete their courses for graduation," said AJ Phillips, director of information technology services.

That meant using devices already on-hand at schools.

Howard Pond, supervisor of workstation support services in ITS, said that prior planning allowed them to respond quickly to changes caused by the pandemic.

"This was just a deployment acceleration of the original plan," Pond said. "We worked with our schools to prepare 23,712 devices to make available for immediate distribution."

Once ITS was able to meet immediate needs, the focus shifted to the upcoming school year.

"We purchased enough devices for all upcoming juniors and seniors so we could ensure the students have devices in the fall in case of continued closure of all schools," Philips said.

Working closely with the vendor that provides full-service setup of each new PWCS device, Pond and his colleagues in ITS are diligently preparing for another round of laptop distribution, to support learning this fall.

"These are the new laptops that will go to high school juniors and seniors," Pond stated. "All high schools have been provided the total number of devices allocated for them in the new year. Every high school will get an allotment of extra units as well," he added.

The advanced planning to bridge the digital divide has allowed Pond and others in his department to communicate digital plans to each high school.

With a steady flow of laptops being imaged and delivered to high schools throughout the next few months, more PWCS students will have technology at their fingertips.

"Our goal is for every student in grades nine-12 to have their own device by November 2020," shared Phillips.

PWCS has a four-year digital equity initiative to continue to address the technology needs of PWCS students.

"The digital equity initiative goal is to move toward one-to-one devices in grades three-12, and one device to three students in grades K-two," Phillips stated. "This initiative would not only positively impact our economically disadvantaged students but will help bridge the digital inequities across the division," she added.

Phillips noted that digital equity transforms the teaching and learning experience and provides benefits to both students and teachers.

"Implementing equitable digital access to technology would also empower teachers to design authentic learning experiences that best serve all students, especially students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency."