APS reports $477K worth of equipment stolen, lost

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Albuquerque Public School board confirmed Tuesday, APS is out more than $477,000 in things officials can’t find. Some of the loot could be sitting in your home right now. 

The majority of the missing items are the Chromebook computers the district gave out to families for remote learning during the pandemic. 

What – if any – consequences will those families face who never returned those laptops?

“From our point of view, knowing we’re looking at close to half a million dollars that has been missing and stolen tomorrow, we got we have to approve over $6 million of Chromebooks that need to get replaced. Like this is significant, you know? And I just don’t want to turn a blind eye and think, ‘Oh, this is just normal, this happens. People take stuff people break in.’ It’s not okay,” said Crystal Tapia-Romeo, APS board member. 

The hot topic during Tuesday’s APS board meeting was, what to do about more than 989 missing or stolen Chromebooks that cost $300 a piece?

“Those Chromebooks totaled $329,645.87.”

“This is the first time that schools have touched these devices in over two years. So, that said we’re reconciling our inventory, some students had multiple devices checked out to them so those missing devices were turned in as missing device,” said Shellmarie Harris,  APS executive director of Educational Technology and Technology Client Services

The district also reported missing or stolen Wi-Fi hotspots, iPads, tablets, and other laptops. 

Board members struggled to agree on a punishment for those who have yet to turn in school property.

“You mentioned that it may be a policy to have kids do cleaning in the school if they have not been able to return an item. And that just strikes me as rather inappropriate and inequitable to have kids who cannot afford to pay for a computer clean our schools,” said Danielle Gonzales, APS board member. 

“We have, what? 3,000 students that are identified as homeless?” said Barbara Petersen, APS board member. “It’s very different from household to household and child to child, what, what really is involved when something gets lost, or misplaced, stolen?”

The current procedure is for families to file a police report on their old Chromebook before the district gives them a new one.

“You can imagine we’ve gotten a bit of complaints from family saying, ‘well, I just lost it. I don’t want to have the police involved.’ And we have been quite strict at holding that line to say no, we cannot just let a Chromebook go missing without a very, you know, solid record of what happened.”

APS Superintendent Scott Elder told the board the district has always used a sliding scale for items that do not get turned in on time, like textbooks. They use it to charge late fees for families who can pay.

During Tuesday’s meeting, he urged the board to consider implementing a similar consequence for Chromebooks – but said they could revisit that later.

For now, board members say laptops can be returned to any school or APS facility like the service or data center.