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Government Restrictions Delay Shipment Of Computers For B-N Students

Laptop is handed off to parent
Rich Pedroncelli
Every Unit 5 student will be issued a device. Younger students will get a tablet; older students will receive a Chromebook.

Unit 5 says government trade restrictions will delay the arrival of Chromebooks and tablets it planned to distribute to elementary students to help with remote learning.

"Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, the Chromebooks and Chrome Tablets we ordered for our elementary students have been delayed," the district told parents in an email Wednesday. "The U.S. government has placed restrictions on several overseas companies and this will impact our delivery date by 4 to 6 weeks."

At Wednesday night's school board meeting, Superintendent Kristen Weikle said the order was held up due to trade issues with the country where the chips were being manufactured. She said the order would eventually be completed and, in the meantime, the district will distribute 4,600 devices it currently has in stock.

“We’re confident we can distribute at least one per family,” said Weikle.

Unit 5 is asking families who do have devices at home to utilize those until the shipment arrives. Once devices arrive, every student will be issued a device.

Families have been asked to complete a survey this week about which devices they have at home.

District officials said they ordered the computers in June and were guraranteed they would arrive by the start of the school year.

District 87 computers

Meanwhile, District 87 is waiting on a supply of about 4,100 Chromebooks that the district ordered in March.

Diane Wolf, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said about 2,700 devices have been released from U.S. Customs in Chicago and are expected to arrive within days. The district hopes to have them by Aug. 24 when the school year begins.

Superintendent Barry Reilly said the district is prepared to reprogram some Windows devices so they can operate as Chromebooks for the first few weeks, until the full shipment arrives.

“We are making due with what we have,” Reilly said. “We’ve had students return those, repurpose those. We think we will be OK and we are hopeful that we get everything here by the 24th so we can get them in kids’ hands.”

In District 87, all students in grades 3 through 12 will use Chromebooks. Pre-K through second grade will use iPads.

Other districts in McLean County are also in decent shape when it comes to need for devices, according to Regional Superintendent Mark Jontry.

"Right now, most of them are still trying to do as much in-person as possible, so that issue is mitigated a little by that fact," Jontry said.

Jontry said the backorder situation did not come as a surprise. He said some schools stocked up in the spring, anticipating high demand for the fall semester. Still, some of those orders have been pushed back and are now set to arrive just as school is starting. Districts that waited until the summer to place device orders are also struggling.

"For those districts that are in that position, they're going to be doing a little more paper and pencil, at least at the outset," Jontry said.

But that's only sustainable for so long, Jontry said, and superintendents will have to continue applying pressure on vendors to get the supplies they need. He added that some districts — where more students have access to their own devices at home or where schools already operate at a 1-to-1 student-to-computer ratio—are better equipped than others to handle the delays.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
Sarah Nardi is a correspondent at WGLT. She rejoined the station in 2024.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.