Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students and teachers are receiving hotspots and web cameras earlier than expected this week with help from members of the Joint Base Andrews Office of Special Investigations (OSI).

Five members of the OSI team arrived at the CCPS warehouse Wednesday morning, ready to prepare more than 1,000 hotspots for students and nearly 2,000 web cameras for teachers to use once CCPS begins Phase 2 with in-person learning. The cameras will allow teachers to move around the classroom rather than sit behind a computer as they simultaneously teach children in the classroom and virtually.

Volunteers from Joint Base Andrews Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and Charmaine Thompson, chief of instructional technology for CCPS, inventory and pack hotspots for delivery to schools. Pictured with Thompson, left, are Jake Bruggenthies and Sean Foster from the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI). Credit: Charles County Public Schools

The OSI volunteers labeled, inventoried, and reboxed each device for shipping to CCPS schools, which have already begun distributing the equipment. The technology devices arrived earlier this week, and Lora Bennett, executive director of IT strategy, said the Andrews team completed in one day what it would have taken CCPS staff several days because of technology’s daily volume of work.

“You saw a need and offered to help,” said Superintendent Kimberly Hill as she thanked the volunteers. “The community needs us to get this done. Our children are missing out because they do not have the technology to engage. This infusion of help is a shot in the arm,” Hill said.

Ramon Ramos said he has school-aged children and knows the school system still has thousands of technology pieces to process. “I figured I would do my part,” he said.

Ramon Ramos of Joint Base Andrews prepares hotspots for delivery to students. Credit: Charles County Public Schools

Joshua Martin said he learned about the need for help while watching a technology report during the September Charles County Board of Education meeting. He said the report by Charmaine Thompson, chief of instructional technology, compelled him to ask if OSI could help the school system process equipment to expedite delivery.

CCPS delivered the hotspots to each school this week, and principals are distributing 965 devices to families identified through a CCPS survey as having unreliable internet or who previously filled out a request. The OSI team is on standby to help again as new technology shipments arrive.

“I am truly grateful for the support of the Air Force volunteers who helped unload and prep technology devices for our students. I cannot thank them enough and look forward to partnering with them in the future should we ever need their helping hands,” Thompson said.

Since March, CCPS has provided more than 18,000 laptops to students for virtual learning. This week, CCPS delivered 1,400 laptops to schools to fill a backlog of requests for a device, Thompson said. CCPS expects an additional laptop shipment soon, which Thompson said would replace middle school laptops without cameras. Worldwide shipping delays have held up laptop orders.

Community engagement is important to members of the OSI. Sean Foster said he lives in Charles County and likes volunteering around the community. “We heard the call for the need to help, and I am happy to spend the day here in service to others,” Foster said.

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