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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: 514171

Reported Deaths: 10285
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34920557
DeSoto33270432
Hinds32652642
Jackson24876391
Rankin22516404
Lee16366245
Madison14932283
Jones14129247
Forrest13785260
Lauderdale12279324
Lowndes11314193
Lamar10663140
Pearl River9720244
Lafayette8855143
Hancock7839132
Washington7553169
Oktibbeha7216138
Monroe7036179
Pontotoc7003109
Warren6872178
Panola6768135
Neshoba6732210
Marshall6686142
Bolivar6451151
Union640898
Pike5933156
Alcorn5887107
Lincoln5533136
George510380
Prentiss505385
Tippah492783
Itawamba4857107
Scott478199
Adams4771125
Tate4765117
Leflore4736144
Copiah457095
Yazoo456692
Simpson4554117
Wayne443172
Covington434695
Sunflower4315106
Marion4279112
Coahoma4238109
Leake414090
Newton395782
Tishomingo384894
Grenada3777109
Stone365766
Jasper340866
Attala338790
Winston317892
Chickasaw316167
Clay312578
Clarke301295
Calhoun285949
Holmes271889
Smith269452
Yalobusha244247
Tallahatchie232053
Greene224749
Walthall221866
Lawrence219141
Perry213456
Amite209857
Webster206248
Noxubee188743
Montgomery181857
Carroll174941
Jefferson Davis173843
Tunica163339
Benton153139
Kemper145041
Choctaw136727
Claiborne134439
Humphreys132139
Franklin126029
Quitman107628
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845761

Reported Deaths: 16119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161862004
Mobile742411381
Madison53315732
Shelby38351369
Baldwin38104589
Tuscaloosa36052641
Montgomery34492781
Lee25590263
Calhoun22598518
Morgan22459406
Etowah20026518
Marshall18790316
Houston17741425
St. Clair16904358
Limestone16153219
Cullman16067303
Elmore15912294
Lauderdale14991306
Talladega14209299
DeKalb12985269
Walker12067380
Blount10729192
Autauga10526157
Jackson10170194
Coffee9425192
Colbert9341208
Dale9024192
Tallapoosa7273201
Russell708865
Chilton7042170
Escambia6956143
Covington6943195
Franklin6338108
Chambers5785142
Marion5413130
Dallas5295209
Pike5123109
Clarke484886
Lawrence4831129
Winston4780110
Geneva4643136
Bibb434594
Barbour369980
Butler3439100
Marengo342393
Monroe337466
Randolph334867
Pickens333988
Fayette330085
Henry320766
Hale318489
Cherokee318363
Crenshaw260777
Washington256952
Cleburne254560
Lamar251953
Clay251169
Macon245064
Conecuh193162
Coosa185547
Lowndes178268
Wilcox177638
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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Tupelo
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Columbus
Cloudy
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Oxford
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High pressure will continue to dominate our weather forecast for the next few days. This will keep our area on the dry side and on the unseasonably warm side for this time of the year. We will see most high temperatures well into the 70s over the next few afternoons.
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