Nancy Lambert of Esgenoopetitj First Nation says she spent days trying to register for the Department of Education’s laptop subsidy program with no luck.
Then she sent an email but didn’t get a reply.
Next came what she felt were endless calls to the toll-free number to try to speak with someone. After days of calling, she finally got through Monday.
“The woman I spoke to tried to help me register on her end, but it still wouldn’t work on my end. She told me they were trying to work out glitches or something like that.”
Lambert said the portal wouldn’t accept her address. First it would reject the postal code then the civic number and street name.
“No matter what I tried it wouldn’t work.”
A single mother with her daughter entering her last year in high school, Lambert said getting the subsidy will be a big help. She said her application finally went through Wednesday and now she is waiting for her confirmation email and approval.
In July, Education Minister Dominic Cardy announced all high school students in New Brunswick would have to use their own electronic devices. A $7 million subsidy program to help low and middle-income families buy computers was launched July 31.
More than 3,000 applications for the program have been received.
Each student will be required to have a laptop to take back and forth to school and use at home for online and offline learning.
The laptops must be able to access tools including Microsoft Teams, Office 365, Desire 2 Learn, Adobe Connect, and more.
They have to have a minimum of 64 GB of storage, memory capacity of 8 GB of RAM, a built-in microphone, camera, speakers and headphones and the Windows 10 operating system.
A complete list can be found on the department’s website.
High volume of calls
People who apply for a subsidy and don’t get a confirmation email are encouraged to call the toll-free number.
But the department admits there are problems with people getting through.
“We have experienced higher than anticipated demand on the phone lines and we are in the process of recruiting additional staff to manage this demand,” spokesperson Danielle Elliot said in an email.
Cardy said it was a problem the department was working to fix.
“We had a problem with the number of land lines coming into the department and lots and lots of people calling. I apologize for that.”
Elliot said parents can leave their name and number or email, and staff will get back to them as soon as possible.
Cardy said parents could even send him an email if they couldn’t get through.
He said no one would be penalized if they called late and didn’t have things in place for the first day of school.
This is the approach Muriel Hamann of Tabusintac is taking after spending weeks trying to get her email registered in the system so she can access the parent portal.
“My problem is not with the province really. It’s because there has never been an email set up from the school linked to me.”
Hamann said via Facebook chat she realized this when she didn’t receive the email asking about student transportation for her twin sons for the school year.
Since then she’s spent hours on the phone trying to first reach someone at the Education Department, then the district office and the high school her sons attend.
“If this is the case, then you can’t register until an email is set up. And it is my understanding at this point, that only the actual school can do that.”
Hamann is now waiting for a call from the school in Miramichi to help her.
“This will all get sorted out. It’s new to all. We just need to be patient.”