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: 296154

Reported Deaths: 6764
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19700230
Hinds18851392
Harrison16736281
Rankin12757265
Jackson12623228
Lee9694161
Madison9480203
Jones7990147
Forrest7234138
Lauderdale6837226
Lowndes6032140
Lamar589680
Lafayette5740113
Washington5220130
Bolivar4616124
Oktibbeha441593
Panola431995
Pearl River4178131
Warren4134115
Pontotoc410571
Marshall403592
Monroe3990127
Union396174
Neshoba3817169
Lincoln3552104
Hancock348975
Leflore3380118
Sunflower318986
Tate303174
Pike301296
Scott294570
Alcorn292263
Yazoo290565
Itawamba290175
Coahoma281169
Tippah279265
Copiah278758
Simpson276280
Prentiss270258
Wayne254341
Leake252871
Marion252778
Covington249580
Grenada247878
Adams234678
George232145
Newton230852
Winston221877
Jasper213645
Tishomingo212665
Attala206669
Chickasaw201453
Holmes182370
Clay179251
Stone172429
Tallahatchie171239
Clarke169371
Calhoun158028
Smith153033
Yalobusha145036
Greene127833
Walthall124340
Noxubee122831
Montgomery122639
Perry122135
Lawrence120321
Carroll118625
Amite111734
Webster110832
Jefferson Davis102231
Tunica99323
Claiborne98829
Benton93824
Humphreys92927
Kemper90323
Quitman77414
Franklin76119
Choctaw69817
Jefferson62727
Wilkinson62426
Sharkey49117
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 497154

Reported Deaths: 10029
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson714001387
Mobile36252736
Madison32573462
Tuscaloosa24289414
Montgomery22708519
Shelby22112215
Baldwin19856285
Lee15021155
Calhoun13755288
Morgan13742252
Etowah13379320
Marshall11439210
Houston10110262
Elmore9451185
Limestone9413136
St. Clair9003225
Cullman8979182
Lauderdale8610212
DeKalb8486175
Talladega7582165
Walker6571259
Jackson6542103
Autauga631391
Blount6229127
Colbert5998120
Coffee5259103
Dale4657107
Russell406433
Franklin399778
Covington3989106
Chilton3891100
Escambia378772
Tallapoosa3613143
Clarke343953
Chambers3423111
Dallas3419142
Pike293372
Marion288895
Lawrence284683
Winston258668
Bibb245960
Geneva240270
Marengo238357
Pickens225055
Barbour212951
Hale211969
Fayette201357
Butler201166
Henry182941
Cherokee177739
Monroe166639
Randolph164640
Washington156635
Macon147243
Crenshaw146254
Clay145554
Cleburne139741
Lamar133733
Lowndes132551
Wilcox122525
Bullock117236
Conecuh107024
Perry105927
Sumter99432
Coosa89624
Greene88532
Choctaw55123
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