CASA GRANDE — The high demand for technology created by students and parents working from home during the coronavirus put a crimp in Casa Grande Elementary School District’s plan to purchase more than 2,000 new Chromebooks for students for the new school year.
But the situation seems to have been fixed with the help of elected officials.
CGESD Superintendent JoEtta Gonzales said the district found out on Tuesday that the new computers the district ordered in May were held up by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Los Angeles. An email sent to her office stated that some of the parts in the computers were made in factories that had “unfair labor practices.” It did not describe what those unfair labor practices were.
Gonzales said the district had heard from its supplier and other school districts that there were supply chain problems with getting new technology. The shutdown in March to help control the coronavirus created such a demand for laptops, computers, monitors and other technology that everyone was having problems finding and purchasing equipment.
Gonzales said the district put its order in as soon as it possibly could. The order was supposed to arrive in mid-June, but it was delayed for various reasons. Then the district received the email on Tuesday stating that the order had arrived and then received an email on Wednesday that the computers were being held by Customs in Los Angeles.
The district needed to have the computers in hand in the next few days in order to get them tagged, updated, set up and ready to distribute to students and families before the start of school on Aug. 17.
Gonzales said she and others in the district spent the next several days reaching out to anyone they could think of to help get the computers released, including calling U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Rep. Tom O’Halleran, Gov. Doug Ducey and Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland’s offices.
The district also put the word out to local businesses, other schools and parents asking for help in either getting the computers out of Customs or ordering a new set of computers through a different vendor.
Gonzales said everyone from the governor to the mayor, parents to local businesses offered their help. She said she exchanged a dozen emails with Sinema’s office alone.
“Everyone has been so supportive,” she said.
Sinema said that as Arizona schools continue online learning to protect the health and safety of teachers and students, it’s critical Arizona students have the resources they need to access school work.
“Our team was happy to assist Superintendent JoEtta Gonzales and are pleased the Casa Grande Elementary School District will receive laptops to keep students connected during the coronavirus pandemic,” Sinema said in a statement. “I encourage all Arizonans needing assistance to contact my casework team at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Gonzales said she received word Thursday that the computers had been released from Customs and were sitting in a warehouse in Phoenix. They were delivered to the district Friday.
It’ll take at least a week to unbox, update, load the computers with the district’s software, tag them and take images of them, she said. The computers will then be ready to hand out to families and students just before the school year starts.