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Latest Beneficiary of US Laptop Largesse is a Mantua Charter School

(Fourth-grader Quadira, using a donated GSA computer to work on a web site that provides online training with reading, is flanked by GSA administrator Sara Manzano-Díaz, left, and Belmont Charter School principal Claire Cohen.  Photo by Cherri Gregg)

(Fourth-grader Quadira, using a donated GSA computer to work on a web site that provides online training with reading, is flanked by GSA administrator Sara Manzano-Díaz, left, and Belmont Charter School principal Claire Cohen. Photo by Cherri Gregg)

Gregg_Cherrie--NEW Cherri Gregg
Cherri Gregg is the community affairs reporter for KYW Newsr...
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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The federal government recycles employee computers every other year.    But they don’t just toss the used laptops into landfills — they give them to schools in need.

Over the past few months, the  Mid-Atlantic region of the General Services Administration has given away more than 120 laptops to Philadelphia-area schools.

The donations are valued at roughly $48,000, and come thanks to the federal “Computers for Learning” program, created in an executive order signed by President Bill Clinton.

Today, a US government official visited the Belmont Charter School, on Brown Street in Mantua, where some former government computers were just installed.

“I’m working in a web site called ‘Read Live Naturally,’ ” said one fourth-grader, 11-year-old Quadira (center of photo).  She needs extra help with her reading, and the 30 new laptops donated to her school means that reading specialist Phillip Beard can give more individualized help to a larger group of students.

“Before, to have more than two or three (students at one time), I’d have to go to a computer lab and share space with another class,” he notes.   “Now, since I’m not sharing with another group of kids, I can stop them, (and) do a mini-lesson without disturbing any other kids.”

Claire Cohen, the principal at Belmont (at right in photo), says purchasing laptops for the school gets expensive, in part because of wear and tear and the need to use the computers for specialized programs.

“We had a standing computer lab, so we were only able to prioritize the kids with the greatest needs,” she said.   “We were only able to see a couple of kids at a time — the computer teacher was sharing space with kids who need support. But now we have computers spread all throughout the school.”

GSA administrator Sara Manzano-Díaz (at left in photo) says her agency has donated to schools in Chester, Pa. to support the government’s “Strong Cities, Strong Communities” initiative, and now they’re donating in Mantua as part of President Obama’s “Promise Zones” initiative.

“It’s good for schools, good for the government and good for the environment,” said Manzano-Díaz.  She pointed out that nonprofit schools can apply to receive the free laptops at computersforlearning.gov.