Prince George’s Co. schools to disconnect recalled hot spots over fire risk

Prince George’s County Public Schools says next month it will disconnect  mobile internet hot spots that have kept thousands of students connected to distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic after the devices were recalled as a fire risk.

The school system is asking parents to return the Verizon Ellipsis Jetpack hot spot devices, along with the battery and charger, to their schools by June 15. That’s the final day of classes for students. The devices will be disconnected June 16, the school system said in a news release Tuesday.

New hot spot devices will be issued again at the start of the next school year for families that need them, the school system said. If students need the devices for summer school, they can exchange the old devices for new ones starting next month.

The Verizon hot spots, which were imported by Franklin Wireless in San Diego, were the subject of a nationwide recall issued April 8 by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The safety commission said the device’s lithium ion batteries can overheat, posing fire and burn hazards. Out of the 2.5 million units sold, there have been 15 reports of devices overheating, including six reports of fire damage to bedding or flooring and two reports of minor burn injuries.

Several hundred thousand of the devices were purchased by school systems across the country.

Prince George’s County said last month the Ellipsis Jetpack devices constituted nearly all of the 5,000 hot spots issued by the school system and provided the sole means of internet access for between 2,500 to 3,000 families.

If students need to keep using their hot spots for the rest of the school year, they are urged to follow online instructions for downloading software updates to the device.

Among guidance for making sure the devices don’t overheat, when they aren’t being used, the hot spots should be turned off and unplugged from the power source.

Students who need hot spots for summer school can exchange the recalled devices at one of nine PGCPS Parent Centers across the county or one of three Technology Distribution Centers.

Hot spot exchanges cannot be made at schools.


More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.


Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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