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: 312712

Reported Deaths: 7223
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21445257
Hinds20264414
Harrison17785308
Rankin13548278
Jackson13401246
Madison10055217
Lee9959173
Jones8361163
Forrest7638152
Lauderdale7191240
Lowndes6361144
Lamar620686
Lafayette6164118
Washington5318133
Bolivar4796132
Oktibbeha460698
Panola4550105
Pearl River4493145
Marshall4393103
Warren4371121
Pontotoc419372
Monroe4089133
Union408876
Neshoba4022176
Lincoln3944110
Hancock376886
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335590
Tate332084
Pike3290105
Scott314973
Alcorn311268
Yazoo310269
Itawamba299277
Copiah296065
Coahoma293979
Simpson293888
Tippah287468
Prentiss278960
Marion268780
Leake265573
Wayne262241
Adams261882
Grenada260085
Covington256281
George246748
Newton246161
Winston226881
Tishomingo225467
Jasper220748
Attala214173
Chickasaw206957
Holmes188672
Clay184654
Stone181833
Clarke177879
Tallahatchie177840
Calhoun169732
Yalobusha162936
Smith162134
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125838
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104626
Claiborne102230
Benton99025
Humphreys96133
Kemper95328
Franklin83423
Quitman79916
Choctaw76018
Wilkinson66830
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 529446

Reported Deaths: 10930
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763031516
Mobile40850804
Madison34622501
Tuscaloosa25701451
Montgomery24289585
Shelby23367247
Baldwin21035307
Lee15822169
Calhoun14469313
Morgan14266279
Etowah13806352
Marshall12185222
Houston10533280
Elmore10029205
Limestone9948150
Cullman9640193
St. Clair9589239
Lauderdale9407239
DeKalb8814185
Talladega8199175
Walker7214277
Autauga6914108
Jackson6801111
Blount6635136
Colbert6288134
Coffee5498117
Dale4820111
Russell438438
Chilton4258111
Franklin424782
Covington4111117
Tallapoosa4004150
Escambia393076
Chambers3555123
Dallas3543151
Clarke350661
Marion3105100
Pike310177
Lawrence299798
Winston273672
Bibb260463
Marengo249064
Geneva247676
Pickens233659
Barbour230756
Hale222276
Butler215869
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184145
Randolph179241
Monroe177040
Washington167039
Macon158850
Clay155156
Crenshaw151957
Cleburne148341
Lamar141534
Lowndes138553
Wilcox126729
Bullock122941
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa106928
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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