Scott Lavergne and Roddy Bergeron may have a new solution — old laptops — to help students displaced from their education by Hurricane Laura to reconnect with schools.
Lavergne, CEO of Enterprise Data Concepts, and Bergeron, company COO and rising president of the 705 young professional group, began soliciting recently for old laptops and Chromebooks from service organizations, companies and individuals for donation to students. The laptops will be stripped of personally identifiable information and made ready for school-related tasks.
Bergeron, who has visited Lake Charles in volunteer roles since the Aug. 27 storm, said he was told by a police jury member there that local schools — many were damaged or destroyed — might not open again for months, perhaps next year. Students were scattered after Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds, destroyed much of the city of 80,000 and parish of 200,000, as well as lightly populated Cameron Parish. One way to reconnect with public schools and continue their education is through remote learning, but that requires a computer, Bergeron said.
“They can’t do school and they can’t do online,” Bergeron said of displaced students who are without laptops.
Problems abound, the men said. In Lake Charles, power is still out in many homes and there is no internet. It’s unsure how many schools can be reoccupied and there are many evacuated areas. Many evacuees have resettled temporarily from Jennings to Lafayette.
That’s where this volunteer effort may help fill the gap, connecting students to remote learning opportunities in Calcasieu or elsewhere. Lavergne, president of the Rotary Club of Lafayette, has asked other Rotary Clubs, civic groups, clients and friends to donate old laptops and their chargers. They are talking with vendors, too.
Students at Carencro High, which has an information technology academy, will do necessary work to re-tool the laptops. The goal, Lavergne said, is to collect 1,000 laptops. Bergeron said it takes about a half-hour to an hour per computer to update them for school use. The software is free and the only cost is time.
"It's not costing us anything but time," Lavergne said. "All you need is 2 gigs of RAM, a web camera and a charger to make them functional. If you boot up, you're in class."
Lavergne said the problem of finding new laptops for students is that there is a manufacturing delay, some three to five months, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the intention is to rebuild old laptops more quickly than manufacturers can provide them.
“We’re trying to put them into students’ hands as quickly as possible,” Bergeron said.
There’s another benefit to rebuilding the laptops: They will be reused so they don’t wind up in landfills, Bergeron said.
About a dozen laptops were donated last week and efforts are just underway to spread the word about the effort. Lavergne said the men have talked with school officials here about their effort and will talk more with Calcasieu school system officials.
EDC, which provides IT solutions and management, has been in business in Lafayette for 19 years. It has offices in Lafayette and New Orleans.
People who wish to donate laptops can bring them to 406 Audubon Blvd., Lafayette during working hours, Monday through Friday.
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