by Manal Raju

Technological barriers that have separated students and their educations are attempting to be bridged with a new initiative. The eLearning Backpack Initiative provides the class of 2018 and 2019 with personal laptops. Last year, Stuart equipped the class of 2018 with iPads, but this year laptops will be given to classes 2018 and 2019. Stuart is funding the eLearning Backpack Initiative using grant money from the Virginia Department of Education. Rose Kraus, Stuart’s School Technology Based Specialist is the go to for students who want to receive a laptop. “The eLearning Initiative is a grant Stuart received last year, and in doing so, guaranteed the partial funds for Stuart for the next four years. The grant pays for 80% of the cost, and Stuart pays for 20%. That includes a power cord, a bag, a protector case, and funds for professional development for the teachers.”
Many students find that the laptops are increasing productivity. “In classes, teachers have used the laptops better than the iPads. Most students used them for personal use, and the teachers didn’t really use the iPads in class at all,” said sophomore Warner Gates.
Stuart has many students in need with over 63% of students on the Free or Reduced lunch program last year, according to FCPS. Providing laptops to those who do not have them at home is an important development. The new laptops will allow for students to learn interactively in and out of school. Teachers do not want to assign online homework if not everyone has access to those resources. Marvana Bennett, Stuart’s Student Data Specialist said, “One strong benefit of the eLearning Initiative is going to be with the lower ESOL population where students will gain more one to one access and increase technological skills, like using email, Blackboard, and Microsoft programs.”
Yet there could be a downside to this, Sophomore Lily Beres said, ”I don’t need a computer, so I didn’t sign up for the eLearning Initiative, and most people I see have them just use them for games and social media.”
The eLearning Backpack Initiative currently only gives out laptops to the classes of 2018 and 2019, and will provide laptops for the future classes of 2020 and 2021. Current upperclassmen will not be able to experience the benefits of this grant. “It’s unfair,” said junior Nathan Tedros. “You should be able to get a laptop if you need one, I don’t have one at home. It would really help me in class, and help me out with my homework at home.”
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Sophomore Tumir Galyamov is using his school issued laptop to work during lunch.