EAST BRIDGEWATER — For the first time this year, every student at the high school took home a personal school-issued Chromebook.
Then, just days later, they had to hand them back.
Officials at the East Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School have recalled a total of 1,169 Chromebooks from students in Grades seven through 12.
On Tuesday, students were required to turn in their Lenovo N21 and Lenovo N22 Chromebooks due to safety concerns.
The mass recall occurred after an eighth-grade student reported on Monday that her Chromebook began smoking while she was using it in the school library after school.
At about 5:21 p.m., on Monday, firefighters were called to the school to investigate the incident, East Bridgewater Fire Chief Tim Harhen said.
“We responded and found a Chromebook outside of the school smoking from where the camera is attached above the monitor,” Harhen said.
No injuries were reported, he said, and the department took possession of the computer.
It turned out not to be an isolated incident.
Since January, East Bridgewater Fire has responded to at least three incidents involving smoking Chromebooks at East Bridgewater schools. Others occurred in January and May.
That’s why school officials, in consultation with the fire department and attorneys for the school district, made the decision to confiscate the computers to ensure the safety of students, staff and buildings, Superintendent of Schools Liz Legault said.
The smoking appears to be caused by short-circuiting wires within the computer’s camera apparatus, Harhen said.
“It’s where the camera apparatus is integrated in with the Chromebook,” Harhen said.
“You can have it looking right at you or swiveled so that the camera is facing out. But the design allows you to move it beyond its capabilities. If the camera moves past its limit, it pulls the wires and causes the wires to short.”
Students said the loss of their individual Chromebooks will be a setback.
“We usually use them all day in all of our classes,” 10th-grade student Kaitlynn Choquette said. “All of the teachers will use Google classroom. We usually use it to look up assignments and things.”
Legault said the school will work with the computer’s manufacturer to get Chromebooks back into students’ hands as soon as possible.
“I am hoping it will be a quick turn around!” Legault wrote in an email. She said that in the meantime, “Students can bring their own devices from home and/or use their cell phones. We have great teachers and students and they will be fine and weather the storm.”
As for the Chromebooks, they will be temporarily stored inside a storage container outside the East Bridgewater Police station, Legault said.
“We are disappointed that the Chromebooks will have to be replaced and we will do our best to work the company to replace them as expeditiously as possible," she said.