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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: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845108

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161242006
Mobile741961379
Madison53291732
Shelby38328368
Baldwin38074589
Tuscaloosa36017641
Montgomery34483781
Lee25557263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22454406
Etowah20016517
Marshall18781316
Houston17729425
St. Clair16880358
Limestone16138218
Cullman16050303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14984306
Talladega14191299
DeKalb12971269
Walker12029380
Blount10715192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10161194
Coffee9415192
Colbert9341208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7255201
Russell707865
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6933195
Franklin6342108
Chambers5784142
Marion5403130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318389
Cherokee317763
Crenshaw260477
Washington257052
Cleburne254460
Lamar251453
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192862
Coosa185047
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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