WORCESTER — The School Department has sent a warning to families that Verizon‘s mobile hotspot devices the district distributed last year are being recalled for posing a fire risk.
On Thursday night, Superintendent Maureen Binienda told the School Committee there are around 1,200 active Wi-Fi hotspot devices being used by families around the city that are part of Verizon’s recall.
“We’re not sure where all of those have gone,” however, she said, as some families have lent the hotspots to others in the school system, which is why the district sent out a system-wide warning.
The district is urging families to swap out the Wi-Fi devices “as soon as possible,” Binienda said.
According to the School Department, the hotspots’ batteries can overheat, potentially causing a fire.
Bob Walton, the district’s information technology officer, said Verizon has released a firmware update that at least stops the battery from charging while in use.
“That’s how they’re mitigating it, but in the end, we don’t want them out there,” he said.
The company will send a replacement model, free, if families call 1-800-540-4263.
The Ellipsis Jetpack model units in question are dark navy in color and oval in shape, with “Verizon” printed below the display window on the front of the device, the superintendent said in a call to families Thursday evening.
Binienda said the district is also working with Verizon to set up four locations across the city where families can drop off their unit.
“We want to get these out of circulation as quickly as possible,” Walton said.
Verizon has around 2.5 million of the faulty devices out in circulation in total, he added.
In the meantime, the School Department recommended families turn off the hotspots when not using them, place them on a flat, solid surface, and keep them at room temperature.
The district originally issued around 5,000 of the hotspots last year to help families participate in Worcester’s fully virtual learning model.
Roughly half of the system’s students have since transitioned to part-time in-person learning, and on May 3, about 70% of the district’s students in prekindergarten through eighth grade will begin full-time in-person learning.
Scott O’Connell can be reached at Scott.O’[email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ScottOConnellTG