38,000 laptops for Alabama schools were never shipped, not held up in customs

Officials learned Wednesday that the Chromebooks were not in fact held up in customs, as they had never been shipped.

Posted: Aug 5, 2020 9:45 PM
Updated: Aug 6, 2020 7:19 AM

Tens of thousands of students in Alabama may start the school year without the computers they need.

Last week, it was reported that more than 30,000 laptops, which had been ordered by state schools for this academic year, were held up in customs. It turns out, with the total now closer to 38,000, the devices never made it to America.

"What we have found now is that they were actually never shipped from China, that's where they were coming from. They never left,” Ryan Hollingsworth, executive director of the State Superintendents of Alabama, said Wednesday.

Hollingsworth told me about 20 school districts in Alabama are impacted. Now, with schools set to start across the country, he said it could take 6-8 weeks for vendors to find a new supplier -- time schools don't have.

"So our superintendents, the school districts, are looking for other suppliers here in the U.S. to purchase those from,” he explained. 

In North Alabama, Huntsville, Athens and Scottsboro City Schools confirmed supply chain disruptions delayed device shipments. Those districts told me they should still have enough computers for every student that needs one. Other districts may not be as lucky.

"We also have districts that have ordered Chromebooks, other devices that are not being delivered on time, as well,” Hollingsworth said. “When you combine that with the 38,000, you're looking at a large number of devices that school districts were anticipating to have in place for when students return."

Etowah County Schools' Superintendent Alan Cosby was the first to report issues with the shipment. When trying to figure out why his district’s 4,000 devices had not arrived, he was told by the vendor that they were stuck in customs.

"We immediately reached out to Senator Shelby's office, Senator Jones' office and actually I was able to speak personally with

Congressman Aderholt and all of them were very helpful in understanding the situation,” Cosby said.
After speaking with officials last week, Cosby decided to cancel that original order -- still thinking the Chromebooks were stuck in customs -- and place another order with a different vendor.

Even though that order won’t arrive before the start of the year, cboth traditional and virtual classes will begin on time.

According to the superintendent, the district already has about 5,000 Chromebooks -- which would cover all those attending school virtually, but Cosby says the plan is to provide one to every student.

"We just want to make sure that we're prepared -- in the event we go totally remote or something like that at a later time -- that we're prepared,” he said.

I reached out to numerous districts today to see if they were among those directly impacted. None of those I spoke to claimed to be, but Huntsville, Athens and Scottsboro all said they’re still waiting on shipments.

The School Superintendents of Alabama could not provide the full list of impacted districts Wednesday.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19441349
Mobile13271291
Montgomery8778179
Madison775480
Tuscaloosa7496119
Shelby584951
Lee582961
Baldwin516550
Marshall390944
Calhoun346641
Etowah342047
Morgan325428
Houston278123
Elmore263247
DeKalb239120
Walker228483
St. Clair227837
Talladega212728
Limestone206120
Cullman188519
Dallas177426
Franklin175529
Russell17442
Autauga173825
Lauderdale168233
Colbert163626
Blount159415
Escambia158425
Jackson154611
Chilton153531
Dale135444
Covington134427
Coffee13078
Pike11879
Chambers115142
Tallapoosa114685
Clarke107717
Marion95729
Butler91339
Barbour8577
Winston73712
Marengo70820
Lowndes65327
Pickens65114
Bibb64210
Randolph63713
Hale62828
Lawrence60922
Geneva5995
Bullock59814
Cherokee59115
Monroe5818
Clay5707
Washington55613
Perry5407
Conecuh53111
Crenshaw53132
Wilcox53111
Henry4865
Macon48020
Fayette4438
Sumter43419
Lamar3632
Choctaw34612
Cleburne3396
Greene30315
Coosa1673
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 187690

Reported Deaths: 2312
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby30460452
Davidson26252298
Hamilton928791
Knox918175
Rutherford915088
Williamson516536
Sumner475896
Wilson341844
Putnam320139
Montgomery302244
Out of TN296825
Unassigned29145
Bradley289317
Madison280061
Sevier257015
Blount247723
Maury230923
Washington223935
Robertson219035
Sullivan212133
Hamblen188525
Tipton178118
Trousdale16517
Gibson160922
Hardeman154826
Wayne14905
Bedford132017
Dyer131813
Dickson123515
Cumberland117518
Fayette117418
Coffee116613
Weakley115719
Anderson115312
Henderson115322
Carter114728
Obion11389
Loudon11356
Greene112943
McMinn110025
Jefferson109714
Macon103520
Warren10267
Monroe102217
Lawrence101211
Hardin100516
Lauderdale95915
Haywood95418
Franklin9518
Lake9142
Roane8724
Carroll85819
Bledsoe8494
McNairy84218
White8139
Cheatham80610
Rhea79812
Hawkins78316
Cocke7419
Marshall7415
Overton7135
Smith69810
Johnson6752
Henry6139
Chester60910
Lincoln6031
Giles58017
Hickman5585
DeKalb55213
Crockett52919
Marion5187
Decatur5037
Fentress4713
Claiborne4405
Campbell4314
Polk38210
Grainger3633
Union3471
Benton3349
Jackson3175
Morgan3113
Unicoi2831
Cannon2800
Grundy2685
Humphreys2443
Sequatchie2293
Meigs2233
Clay2205
Houston2083
Scott2072
Stewart1902
Lewis1851
Moore1641
Van Buren1600
Perry1490
Pickett1102
Hancock1063

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