We're all discovering a new way of life during this coronavirus pandemic and one aspect that's been adjusted is learning. Children aren't in school, but they still need to get an education, so we now find ourselves in the age of virtual learning. To make that happen, kids need computers and districts have been checking them out over the course of a couple of weeks now.
"We want to be good stewards of taxpayer money, and we're trying to accomplish some great teaching and learning from a distance perspective by distributing laptops and making sure our families have access to the internet," Scott Kerwien, the Director of Technology and Information For Spokane Public Schools, said.
But since checking out laptops, some employees of the IT department for SPS have noticed a few suspicious listings online in the form of familiar-looking computers for sale.
"We're just imploring our families not to sell any of our equipment online," Kerwien said.
A plea you wouldn't think needs to be made.
Don't sell the taxpayer-funded laptops that were handed out for learning purposes? The same ones you had to check out with your easily traceable information?
The phrase, "this is why we can't have nice things" comes to mind.
But Kerwien and SPS said there's probably more to the story. The computers might not necessarily be being listed by the families who checked them out.
"We know it's not often the actual student or family who has checked out the device that's trying to sell the device online," Kerwien said. "We've been hearing from a small, small handful of people who have said their devices have been stolen and they're asking for another one, so we know it's rarely, rarely the student or family that actually checked out the laptop that's trying to sell it. "
The district believes it's more likely that the computers were stolen and then listed online for sale by the thieves. Families not only had to use personal information to check out the laptops, but SPS says they can track the computers when someone logs onto the web, meaning if you buy a stolen laptop, you could get a knock at your door.
If you are looking to buy a laptop online, SPS says there is a way you can help them out: ask for a serial number.
"We have all the serial numbers for all of our devices, and so, if a seller isn't willing to give you a serial number or show you the lid of the laptop where we actually have district logos and stickers," Kerwien said while talking about red flags to look for. "We can look up serial numbers for what is owned by our district."
If you do have a concern about a laptop you've seen online for sale, or maybe even bought one, Spokane Public Schools says you can send them an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them if it's one of their laptops.
As of Friday, SPS has checked out 4,300 laptops but there have only been reports of a few possibly being sold online, so a minuscule percentage, but again, if you'd like to check with SPS before buying one of their laptops online, send an email to email@example.com.