An Associated Press survey found that schools across the United States are facing months-long shortages and long delays in obtaining this year’s most important back-to-school supplies: laptops and other equipment needed for online learning.

The world’s top three computer companies, Lenovo, HP and Dell, have told the school district that they are short of nearly five million laptops. In some cases, the Trump administration’s sanctions on Chinese suppliers have made the situation worse. In 15 states, vendors, computer companies and industry analysts.

Since the coronavirus actually started the school year in many places, educators across the country worry that the lack of computers will exacerbate this inequality and cause headaches for students, families and teachers.

“It’s like asking artists to paint paint. Tom Baumgarten, the principal of the Molongo Unified School District in the Mojave Desert, California, said that all 8,000 students there have free lunches. Qualifications, most of which require computers for distance learning.

He said that Baumgarten would order 5,000 Lenovo Chromebooks in July, when his supplier told him to withdraw, saying that Lenovo “because components from China are not allowed to be stopped by government agencies here,” he said . He switched to HP and was told that they would arrive in time for the first day of school on August 26. The delivery date was changed to September and then October. There are about 4,000 old laptops in the area, which can serve about half of the students, but what about the rest, Baumgarten kept asking. “I am very worried that I cannot provide a computer for everyone.”

Chromebooks and other low-cost PCs are the computers of choice for most schools with limited budgets. The delay started in the spring and was exacerbated by strong demand and supply chain disruptions. This is the same reason that toilet paper and other pandemic necessities were off shelves a few months ago. Then came the announcement of the Trump administration against Chinese companies on July 20, which allegedly involved forced labor or other violations of human rights against Uyghurs from the Muslim minority. Lenovo’s letter to customers stated that the Ministry of Commerce imposed sanctions on 11 Chinese companies, including the manufacture of multiple models of Lenovo laptops. Lenovo said this will the existing delay time by several weeks.

The school district begged the Trump administration to solve the problem, saying that for some of the country’s most vulnerable students, distance learning laptops is equivalent to no learning.

“It’s very difficult because I don’t tolerate child slave labor on computers, but can’t we hurt more children in the process?” said Matt Bartenhagen, IT director at Williston Public Schools in North Dakota. There are 4,600 in the area. Districts, waiting to order 2,000 Lenovo Chromebooks. “They were originally scheduled for delivery in July. Then in August. Then in late August. By the end of this year, the current shipping is estimated to be “promising.”

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The largest Denver public school district in Colorado is waiting for 12,500 Lenovo Chromebooks to be ordered in April and May. School districts are scrambling to find machines, settle down for all available machines, and distribute everything they obtain to students who need them. However, the IT director of the region, Lara Hussain (Lara Hussain) said that when school starts on Wednesday, they will be short of 3,000 devices.

“We got the promised equipment. Our students need the equipment. Since we did not receive the equipment, we will prevent the students at the beginning of the semester from participating. This is too unreasonable,” Hussein said.

Lenovo has notified Denver and other regions of the supply chain delay in the spring and summer. In late July, Lenovo wrote to customers stating that the “trade controls” announced by the Ministry of Commerce would cause a slowdown for at least a few weeks.

Matthew Zilinsky, president of Lenovo North America North America, said in the letter: “This delay is a new development and has nothing to do with the previously communicated supply restrictions.” The letter mentions the sanctions against the Chinese supplier Hefei Bitland Information Technology. . The letter lists 23 Lenovo education and enterprise client types produced by Bitland.

The letter said: “Effective immediately, we no longer manufacture these devices at Bitland.” It added that Lenovo is developing a “transition plan” to transfer production to other locations.

Lenovo spokesperson Daniel Thigpen (Daniel Thigpen) said that a Lenovo official told the California Department of Education that the company’s backlog of Chromebooks exceeded 3 million.

Lenovo refused to answer repeated questions from the Associated Press, requesting confirmation of the details of the backlog and delayed equipment quantity. The supplier only told some schools that Lenovo only denied the of whether the computer was seized by the US Customs.

U.S. government agencies stated that they knew nothing about the whereabouts of the computers and denied that anyone was seized.

The agency said in a statement: “The U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not have any records of detained laptops that fit this description.”

The Ministry of Commerce stated that it has added Hefei Bitland to its so-called “entity list”, which restricts the export and domestic transfer of goods by sanctioned companies. The department said in a statement: “This does not apply to Chromebooks imported from China.” In addition, “We should all agree that American schoolchildren should not use computers produced by forced labor from China.”

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There are no nationwide statistics on the number of laptops and other equipment that schools are waiting. The Associated Press found that there are some of the largest school districts in the United States, including a large number of Chromebooks, other laptops or hotspots with Internet connection, including Los Angeles, Clark County, Nevada, Wake County, North Carolina, Houston, Palm Beach and Hawaii, the only statewide school district in the country.

Mary Nicely, senior policy adviser to the governor of California, said a recent poll of 1, areas in California showed that schools across the state were waiting for at least 300,000 computers that were out of stock. Ryan Hollingsworth, head of school supervision in Alabama, said a survey conducted in Alabama found that about 20 schools were waiting for 33,000 computers.

Smaller regions in Montana, New York, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, New Hampshire and other regions are also waiting for laptop orders, and delivery dates have become targets.

Some school districts, such as Los Angeles, stated that the uncompleted orders are for equipment replacement, and all students who need a computer will have one. Many areas require parents to be able to purchase equipment for their children, but realize that this is not an option for many families.

It is not easy to run out of supplies in commercial stores. The website of Best Buy showed 36 new and used Chromebooks priced under US$500 (approximately Rs 37,400), which are low-cost models popular with students. As of this week, 33 of these models have been sold out.

Michael Flood, Kajeet’s senior vice president, said that backlogs and delays are so common that some students will have to start semesters the necessary technology for distance learning. Canada.

Some school administrators told Flood that their laptop and Chromebook suppliers expect the delivery time will only be delayed by about a month. But others have been told that their machines may not be available until early 2021.

The shortage stems from a time when demand in the personal computer industry is still recovering from pandemic-driven preventive measures, which shut down factories of major Chinese PC suppliers in February and March. Gartner research director Mikako Kitagawa said that just as the supply chain began to resume growth, large companies and government agencies also poured in new orders. These companies and a large number of employees worked from home, and school districts were also vying to buy machines. Follow the PC industry.

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Beichuan said: “The most important thing is that now everyone seems to want a laptop or Chromebook, and the supply is insufficient.” “This is a very bad timing.”

To make matters worse, many school districts underestimated their demand when ordering in the spring, assuming that traditional face-to-face classes will resume in the fall.

In California, most schools planned to offer some form of face-to-face teaching in the fall, but it was not known until July that then Governor Gavin Newsom effectively ordered most schools to start with distance learning. It created a crazy dash for computers.

Tom Quiambao, technical director of the Tracy Unified School District in Northern California, said he and his supplier directly contacted HP and asked why he ordered 10,000 HP laptops in July to take three months to deliver. He was told that “HP’s laptops are short of 1.7 million units,” Quiambao said, due to production shortages of various components made in China (including processors, touch screens, motherboards, etc.).

An HP spokesperson declined to confirm or deny the number, saying only that “we will continue to use our global supply chain to meet the changing needs of our customers.”

Dell also provided similar short answers to detailed questions about the backlog.

Dell said in an email statement: “We are unable to comment on demand and supply. He added that due to virtual learning, the company has seen an in orders and is trying to “fulfill orders as efficiently as possible.”

Linn Huang, an analyst at the research company International Data, said that with so many customers ordering laptops at the same time, PC manufacturers may be in a position to decide who buys laptops first. These pecking orders threaten to push small school districts behind the laptop production line.

This is of the problem in the Abilene area of ​​central Texas, where they are waiting for 6000 Dell Chromebooks. These laptops will be ordered in May and June, but they are not expected to be ordered until November.

“In Texas, there are more than 1,200 school districts, and they are all under order,” said Lance Fleming, a spokesperson for the school district. The school also tried to obtain disinfection supplies. “Who would have thought that computers and Clorox Wipes have the same level of demand in our country.”

Should the government explain why Chinese applications are banned? We discussed this on the weekly technical podcast Orbital, you can subscribe via Apple Podcast, Google Podcast or RSS, download the episode, or click the play button below.