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Thousands of computers missing from DCPS, hundreds of others from Alexandria Schools

Thousands of computers have been reported missing from DC Public Schools, and hundreds of others at Alexandria City Public Schools locations. (7News)
Thousands of computers have been reported missing from DC Public Schools, and hundreds of others at Alexandria City Public Schools locations. (7News)
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Multiple school districts in the DMV are missing thousands of pieces of school technology.

Property that tax dollars paid for and it’s turned up lost or stolen. Even more concerning, it could open up school districts and students to cyberattacks.

Right now, DC Public Schools has the most lost or stolen equipment out of four school districts 7News investigated in the DMV.

DCPS has had 16,125 items come up missing or stolen over the past four years.

“It’s actually concerning. I really even wasn’t aware “ says one parent out front of a DCPS elementary school waiting to pick up her son.

3,470 desktop computers are gone. Only 20 were recorded as stolen. The Dell OptiPlex 3010 tops the list of missing desktops at 582. Each one cost $199.

More than 10,000 laptops are gone, too. And 55 were recorded as stolen.

The Surface Go Gen 2 LTE is the laptop missing the most at more than 3,000. It goes for $399 a pop.

Add it up and hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money are disappearing in thin air.

“Of course, I am disappointed. Now that the technology is gone. How are we supposed to, just in case we have another shutdown, how are they supposed to have the technology they need to get their education. They will not,” says one DC resident outside a DCPS elementary school."

ALSO READ: 'Cybersecurity is your next Katrina': Laws to defend schools from hackers go nowhere

Eastern Senior High School has the most lost or stolen pieces of technology, followed by Ballou High School, Truesdell Elementary, Roosevelt Stay High School and J.O. Wilson.

DCPS told the 7News I-Team that its devices contain a geo-locating system that alerts the District if a lost device connects to the web and the system installed gives it the ability to completely disable a device and wipe the hard drive remotely.

Mark Ostrowski with said remote wiping is a good option but isn’t a 100 percent safeguard if the stolen devices do not connect to the Internet after they are lost. Any missing tech not fully encrypted could lead to phishing or ransomware attacks on schools and students.

“You can actually take that hard drive and attach it to another device and start reading its data," says Ostrowski.

DCPS released the following statement:

“Through our Empowered Learners Initiative, DCPS is taking steps to close the digital divide and empower every learner through technology in the classroom. When students have equitable access to technology, including a device for every student in 3rd through 12th grades, it enhances the learning experience at all levels and meets our commitment to provide a joyful learning environment.

When we started the Empowered Learners Initiative three years ago, we took steps to prepare for the challenges of maintaining such a large inventory of technology devices. DCPS works with school officials to maintain thorough record keeping of devices, and in the event of theft, reports are filed with MPD. DCPS also works directly with families to recover borrowed devices through various methods, with law enforcement involvement serving as a last resort. In addition, unaccounted technological devices can include any device that may have been disposed through the District’s official 525 process for electronics that have run their technological lifecycle. DCPS remains committed to work with school officials and families to improve on the rate of device return and maintaining our impactful student access to technology.”

Alexandria City Public Schools is missing 858 Chromebooks, including 429 Lenovo 300Es that run $354 apiece.

Last year $2,300 worth of musical equipment was stolen from ACPS and two years ago one of its trailers worth $4,900 and filled with thirty-two bicycles came up missing.

Alexandria Schools had no comment until late Monday afternoon in an email:

"ACPS property/contents are insured, except as noted below. A claim was filed with our insurance company for the trailer and the stolen instruments. Our Technology Services team informed us that the cost of insuring our computers is higher than the cost of replacing them. We replace missing computers with refurbished ones. Over the past 19 years, we have learned that 10 percent of lost/stolen computers is about average, and we have been under that 10 percent average despite growing our program by 25 percent in the last two years."

Back in D.C., one parent is not shocked that DCPS is a DMV leader in missing or stolen technology.

“I don’t think it’s shocking. I found a lot of things with virtual learning. A lot of things have been disorganized,” said one mother waiting to pick up her child at school.

Montgomery County Public Schools records show in the past 4 years it's missing 1241 pieces of technology. It's also lost 184 items and had 4 pieces of equipment damaged. 2 tablets are considered stolen with no record of 2,990 items due to Covid. Breaking down the numbers even further, over the past 4 years, MCPS has lost 63 laptops and 440 laptops came up missing.

MCPS issued this statement:

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is the largest school district in Maryland with 209 schools and 158,232 students (as of fall 2021). Our main priority is to support student learning and to make sure that students have the tools and resources they need to learn, either at home or in school buildings. As a school system, we recognize that sometimes items go missing, are damaged or stolen. Often times, these items are found and repaired. Regulation ECC-RA: Loss of or Damage to Montgomery County Public Schools Property establishes the procedures for identifying and reporting property loss, including accidental and malicious damage, theft, and fire or other damage. Please see details below:

MCPS Regulation on Loss of or Damage to Montgomery County Public Schools

MCPS Parent Information about Technology and Device Damage

Fairfax County Public Schools wanted 7News to hand over $1,500 for its list of missing or stolen tech.

7News declined to pay Fairfax County’s cost for transparency.

ALSO READ: Loudoun County Public Schools charge thousands of dollars to get public information

For information on property missing from Alexandria Schools, see the documents below:

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