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District providing all Buffalo school students with tablets, laptops

Eileen Buckley
WBFO News File Photo

Every student in the Buffalo Public Schools system now has access to a computer. From pre-K to 2nd grade, they come off racks. From 3rd grade on, every one of 24,000 students has an assigned tablet or laptop and some seniors get to take them home. More may get that access soon.

Students through Grade 6 are using mostly iPads, while grades 7-12 are all laptops, according to Instructional Technology Director Bill Russo. Each device is packed with the software needed for class. In the buildings, students get access to a large computer network linking all of the buildings.

Russo said the allocation pushes city students past charter, suburban and private schools.

"I would defy folks to look at us and say that we're not best in class," he said. "I think what we've done over the last three to five years, especially with the push Dr. Cash has given us with the New Education Bargain, we've vaulted to Best in Class, especially with the investment also that the governor has made with the Smart Schools Bond Act."

That act resulted in $15 million for the district to spend, mostly from Albany.

The district has been working to improve access for students at home because the city has poor broadband service and many families just can't affort broadband. That is why city public libraries are filled every aftenoon after school with students doing the homework they need to do online.

Credit Eileen Buckley / WBFO News File Photo
WBFO News File Photo

The district is about to start a second year of a program that hires students during the summer to get all of those thousands of computers ready for the opening of school in the fall, cleaning hard drives and updating software. It will be close to two dozen students getting special professional IT training and then hands-on work with the individual computers.

Russo said there is help for the teachers, as well.

"It's a two-pronged attack. We have our student ambassadors who work with teachers and then we have our teacher ambassadors - teachers helping teachers," Russo said, "so we do have a number of teacher coaches who do travel around the district and sit with teachers and help them, not only with the teacher tools that we have, but then the learning tools that we have."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.