‘New level of pressure’ for Boston Public Schools technology department

‘New level of pressure’ for Boston Public Schools technology department

BOSTON — Johnny Pimentel’s two children are back in school, one of them starting their first day of in-person learning, Thursday.

“They (are) kind of excited and confused at the same time because it is something different for them,” said Pimentel.

Last week, he received a Chromebook, one of more than 40,000 Boston Public Schools have distributed this year. The district received a shipment of another 10,000 earlier this week.

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There are about 50,000 students in BPS.

Thursday, Boston 25 News spoke exclusively with Mark Racine, Chief Information Officer for Boston Public Schools, about what has worked and what has not during the early going of the fall school term.

“We saw all of our students logging in on the first few days of school,” said Racine.

For the past six months, ordering Chromebooks, hotspots, and making sure teachers and students would have what they will need to connect for online learning has been his life.

“It’s a new level of pressure and it’s a new layer of stress to be honest with you, but it’s something that we’re really excited about and we’re really excited to meet the challenge that comes,” said Racine.

Lessening the number of learning applications used by teachers has been one difference since spring, Racine explained.

The district also had to increase translation services to bridge the language gap with some families.

Thursday was day one of in-person learning for BPS high-needs students and there were no major technical problems, Racine told Boston 25 News.

Boston Teachers Union president Jessica Tang said teachers have not experienced major tech issues since remote learning began in Boston on September 21.

“The major issue I think with tech, I think is still making sure all of our students have Chromebooks and have regular WiFi access and adequate bandwidth,” Tang added.

As the year goes on, there may not be one issue but countless smaller ones that need addressing, said Racine.

“Many teachers are going to have technical issues that we’re going to need to resolve we’re going to have parents where their Chromebooks are working one day and they may need a new one the next day because of a hardware failure.”

Should schools need to go fully remote if Boston’s COVID-19 infection rate keeps rising, he said the system can handle the scenario.

“We built everything to be able to be flexible, sustainable, and expandable.”

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