MANCHESTER, NH  August 13, 2021–In response to a inquiry from Girard at-Large, Manchester School Superintendent Dr. John Goldhardt said 1,623 of the district’s Chrome Books were not returned by students at the end of this school year.  Girard at Large originally learned about missing Chrome Books in early March when inquiring about students who disappeared from the district during the COVID lockdowns, a nationwide phenomenon.  

In reply to our inquiry, Goldhardt wrote:

We have had students disappear/vanish, but we have not kept a tally.  However, we do drop them from our records, and you know, our enrollment is down substantially this year.  Steve has trackers on our Chrome Books, and some have shown up in South America, Central America, Belize, California, the Dakotas, etc. Last September I made the following comment to the Board:  “The longer we stay in remote, the more students that we will lose.”

Goldhardt also wrote:

There is also absolutely no way we can’t start next school year full-time and all-in.  

Let’s hope that statement holds.

Earlier this week, Girard at Large followed up with Goldhardt to see how many Chrome Books weren’t returned.  1,623 was the number.  At $250 to $300 per book, that’s $405,750 to $486,900 worth of taxpayer provided equipment that has yet to be returned to school officials.

In his response, Goldhardt said most of the missing computers came from “from 1 high school, 1 middle school, and 2 elementary schools where the principals were not as proactive in both checking them out and in their return.”  He also wrote “I know that three of our schools have not been as diligent about turning in the late returns to Steve and we are rectifying it.  There may be more at the school sites that have not been returned to Steve’s team for inspection and repair.”

What is the district doing to recover the devices?

To rectify, we now have a fully electronic system that not only tracks each Chromebook, but also keeps a record at the school and district level of who has it.  We have also met with the delinquent principals and made it very clear that they cannot just wash their hands of this and need to pursue the return of as many of these devices as possible.  The only good news is that the far majority of the missing ones are very old models that needed replacing.  We also were able to disable all of them wirelessly and put on a screen message that states, “This belongs to the Manchester School District.  Return Immediately!”  All Pawn Shops have been put on alert, but I’m not so sure how diligent they are.
Will the district provide students who did not return their Chrome Books with new ones when school starts?
Personally, I don’t believe a student should be given another Chromebook if they didn’t return one from the year before, but the elected governing board does not agree with that sentiment. 
Goldhardt did state that about 450 Chromebooks have been returned the last few days, so it would appear as if the district is making progress retrieving them.  Of those still outstanding, Goldhardt noted:
I also know that about 400 of the missing Chromebooks went with kids who moved out of state or out of the country and did not notify the school until after the fact. The rest are in bedrooms, living rooms, cars, etc.