More Than Furniture: Some Districts Providing School Desks for Remote Learners

Woburn and Gloucester have begun supplying desks to students to help closer resemble a classroom setting

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How important is a school desk in these days of remote learning? Ask Laura Marston, a Woburn mom who picked up a desk to take home on Wednesday. She has a high school freshman, an eighth grader, a fifth grader, a third grader and a first grader all learning from home.

"People are all over the house and my youngest is on the couch, so I'm hoping this might bring a little more incentive," she said. "He's excited to keep all his stuff in one spot versus all over the place."

Woburn has handed out 140 desks so far and Gloucester is doing the same thing.

O'Maley Innovation Middle School teacher Pat Hand is teaching from home and she saw Marston's situation in a lot of Zoom classes.

"Many of them were lying on their beds. Some of them were in a kitchen with food on the table and animals all around them," she said.

Not what you'd call a classroom setting. So Hand suggested they give families desks. The school principal, Lynne Beattie, was on board.

"We have the Gloucester Education Foundation who support us enormously with just about every request that we give them, so they were able to provide funds for the materials we needed," Beattie said.

More than 300 Massachusetts schools and districts plan to start pooled coronavirus testing in February, in an effort to get students back in classrooms.

Engineering specialist Dave Brown designed the desks and taught teachers and volunteers how to make them.

School social worker Dan Graham said the school desk is more than just furniture for kids living through the coronavirus pandemic.

"I wake up at an arbitrary time, I'm eating breakfast at the table and suddenly I have to log into class and there's no space devoted to saying 'This is my learning space,'" Graham said.

Gloucester has sent home 30 desks so far but they expect that number to rise as word spreads.

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