Mississippi schools receive computers for distance learning

Aberdeen High School students will use the Chromebooks to help with online learning. Photo Date: Oct. 28, 2020

Mississippi schools are closer to overcoming the digital divide that quickly became evident at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted: Dec 1, 2020 1:18 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi schools are closer to overcoming the digital divide that quickly became evident at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said Monday.

The state Department of Education has delivered about 325,000 laptop computers or tablets to public schools in recent weeks. The devices were purchased with part of the coronavirus relief money that Mississippi received from the federal government.

Mississippi school districts had the option to buy laptops or tablets on their own, or to be part of a bulk purchasing program through the state. Most opted to be part of the bulk program, and that is how the 325,000 devices were bought. Another 65,000 devices were purchased separately.

Wright said Monday that bulk purchasing “put us at the front of the line” as school districts across the United States are trying to buy computers for students and teachers. The high demand has caused long waiting times in many places.

“Nationally, there’s no other state that procured what we procured, and we did it because we were able to do that in one fell swoop," Wright said.

She was speaking during an online forum hosted by Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute of Government and the Capitol press corps.

Gov. Tate Reeves ordered Mississippi schools to stop providing in-person instruction during the spring as the coronavirus began spreading in the state. As schools moved to online lessons for the final weeks of the 2019-20 academic year, "it became very evident very quickly, children that had connectivity and children that did not,” Wright said Monday.

Some Mississippi schools have continued online-only instruction during the fall semester, while many have offered in-person classes or a mix of in-person and online.

State legislators allocated part of the federal coronavirus relief money to expand internet access, particularly in rural areas. School districts were able to decide how to spend their share of the money. Some have offered wifi hotspots and others have wanted to put up towers to improve cellphone service, Wright said.

The laptops and tablets that arrived through the bulk purchasing program were loaded with all the software they need, and a protective case was put on each device.

“When the districts received those devices, all they had to do was take it out of the box, and it was ready to roll,” Wright said.

Wright said about 80 or 90 people are working on a professional development team to provide training for teachers, school staff and parents about how to use laptops and tablets.

“We heard loud and clear from families,” Wright said. “They were struggling. They didn't know how to access a Zoom meeting. They didn't know what Google Classroom meant.”

Wright said the state Department of Education will also hire digital learning coaches to help teachers and students.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319115

Reported Deaths: 7353
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22246264
Hinds20612421
Harrison18342316
Rankin13855282
Jackson13666248
Madison10213224
Lee10050176
Jones8452167
Forrest7810153
Lauderdale7253242
Lowndes6488149
Lamar632288
Lafayette6295120
Washington5412136
Bolivar4833133
Panola4659110
Oktibbeha465898
Pearl River4591146
Marshall4571105
Warren4436121
Pontotoc424573
Union415576
Monroe4154135
Neshoba4059179
Lincoln4007111
Hancock385187
Leflore3514125
Tate342386
Sunflower339391
Pike3366110
Alcorn323272
Scott319274
Yazoo313971
Adams304785
Itawamba304777
Copiah299666
Coahoma298283
Simpson297889
Tippah291168
Prentiss283361
Leake271674
Marion271280
Covington266683
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George251851
Newton248563
Tishomingo230867
Winston229881
Jasper222048
Attala214973
Chickasaw210459
Holmes190374
Clay187454
Stone187233
Tallahatchie179941
Clarke178980
Calhoun173732
Yalobusha167740
Smith164034
Walthall135147
Greene131633
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee127934
Perry126638
Amite125942
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Tunica107927
Jefferson Davis107633
Claiborne102930
Benton102225
Humphreys97533
Kemper96628
Franklin84923
Quitman81816
Choctaw79018
Wilkinson69332
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50817
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 547323

Reported Deaths: 11266
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson808021563
Mobile41925826
Madison35600522
Tuscaloosa26136458
Shelby25554254
Montgomery25067610
Baldwin21774313
Lee16234175
Calhoun14692325
Morgan14614285
Etowah14132361
Marshall12443230
Houston10748287
Elmore10295212
Limestone10180157
St. Clair10146250
Cullman9921200
Lauderdale9582248
DeKalb8955189
Talladega8441184
Walker7318279
Autauga7215113
Blount6925139
Jackson6900113
Colbert6394139
Coffee5616126
Dale4928114
Russell454441
Chilton4461116
Franklin430683
Covington4263122
Tallapoosa4117154
Escambia400280
Chambers3715123
Dallas3604156
Clarke352861
Marion3231106
Pike313978
Lawrence3121100
Winston283372
Bibb267364
Geneva256981
Marengo250565
Pickens236562
Barbour234559
Hale226578
Butler223371
Fayette217162
Henry193843
Cherokee187245
Randolph186844
Monroe179141
Washington170339
Macon163051
Clay159559
Crenshaw155057
Cleburne152543
Lamar145837
Lowndes141953
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh112930
Coosa111129
Perry108726
Sumter105732
Greene93434
Choctaw61725
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High pressure moves into our area and will continue to dominate our weather forecast for the next several days. This will mean drier weather in store for our area for several days. However, by this weekend, things could change as a tropical system threatens our area.
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