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Audit finds ‘excessive’ number of unused Chromebooks at Richmond schools

Richmond Public Schools
Posted at 6:11 PM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-06 16:33:58-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Allegations of missing laptops prompted an audit of Richmond Public Schools (RPS).

The Chromebooks meant for students were key for remote learning. In order to facilitate virtual learning, RPS ordered the laptops for all students using federal Cares Act money.

However, auditors found a very different story after allegations came out that thousands of laptops were missing.

Auditors discovered that more than 20,000 laptops, worth more than $5.8 million, were never assigned to students. Auditors called this an excessive number of devices.

RPS confirmed that some of these laptops are in a depot and the others are being stored at schools as spares.

They also found that of the nearly 22,000 laptops that were assigned to students, more than 1,800 of them are still in the possession of former or inactive students.

Auditors said there didn't seem to be a formal process in place to monitor the collection of Chromebooks when students leave RPS or to ensure that the laptops are returned when schools close for summer break.

Third, over 2,000 students had between two and five laptops assigned to them.

Auditors found there was no process in place to retrieve Chromebooks from students who had never returned their previously issued device.

Instead, RPS staff just handed them another laptop.

To improve, RPS told auditors that they will stop giving Chromebooks to schools to hand out and will instead have their technology services team assign them directly to students.

They are also creating a process to reach out to families whose children withdrew but did not return their Chromebooks so that RPS can get them back.

RPS will also create an air-tight collection plan to retrieve Chromebooks at the end of the school year.

"RPS board member claims 20,000 laptops not actually purchased in excess"

RPS school board member Liz Doerr is disputing an RPS audit that found 20,000 laptops purchased with $5.8 million in CARES act funds were going unused.

She said the auditors were working with bad data and RPS systems are antiquated.

"We don't have 20,000 sitting around somewhere from 2020. How do I know we don't have 20,000 sitting around? Well, we only bought 26,000 in total and the overwhelming majority of those are in schools being used as we speak," Doerr said on Monday.

She said the situation underscores the need for better asset management by RPS. Doerr said the Chromebooks cited that were sitting around going unused in the audit were purchased prior to the pandemic.

CBS6 problem solver Melissa Hipolit reached out to RPS spokeswoman Sarah Abubaker for verification and is waiting to hear back.

Jonathan Young, the school board member for the 4th district, said he consulted with the auditor and affirmed the validity of the inventory count.

He said he has full faith and confidence in the findings.

RPS will be discussing the Chromebook audit at the school board meeting tonight.

Click here to read the full audit.