April 6, 2020 1:45 PM, EDT

Amazon to Donate 8,200 Laptops to Seattle Students

Amazon signage is displayed in front of a warehouse in Staten Island, N.Y., on March 31.Amazon signage is displayed in front of a warehouse in Staten Island, N.Y., on March 31. (Michael Nagle/Bloomberg News)

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SEATTLE — Inc. is donating 8,200 laptops to families of elementary school students in Seattle Public Schools who don’t have access to a device needed for remote learning while schools are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company and school district announced April 6.

The donation also kick-starts a new fund, the Education Equity Fund, stewarded by the school district’s nonprofit partner, the Alliance for Education. Businesses, community groups and individuals will be able to donate to the fund, whose aim is to “support students furthest from educational justice in accessing the technology, technical support and additional learning resources required to continue to learn during the COVID-19 crisis,” the announcement says.

Amazon will work with Seattle Public Schools (SPS) to ship the laptops directly to students, who will keep them. The school district will prioritize distribution of laptops to elementary students who don’t have access to a device at home, according to the announcement. Amazon’s donation, worth more than $2 million, meets the estimated need for elementary school students, the company said on its blog.

“Amazon’s gift comes at a crucial time for our students,” SPS Superintendent Denise Juneau said in the announcement. “We’ve never lost sight of the need to continue our students’ education — even during this unprecedented time — and our community partner, Amazon, now makes it easier to keep moving forward with the critical work of teaching and learning.”

School districts are required to provide some type of education services during their state-mandated closure. The state initially said districts should avoid online learning for fear of growing inequities between upper- and lower-income families, but changed its guidance shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee mandated statewide school closures. Seattle schools closed March 12, the day before the statewide closure was announced.

More than 52,000 students are enrolled in Seattle Public Schools, the state’s largest school district. About 33% of Seattle students come from families with low incomes, according to state education data.

School district protocols for online learning vary across the state. In Seattle, teachers are supposed to check with families twice per week and provide learning materials in print at two dozen school sites as well as online.

“Making sure our kids have the ability to keep learning is one of the most important things we can collectively do during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services. “With this donation, we’re focused on Seattle students from underserved and underrepresented communities who otherwise would not have access to these devices — which helps enable SPS to educate and assist all of their students during this pandemic.”

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