The West Virginia school district is in the midst of a comprehensive reform effort, Reconnecting McDowell, led by the American Federation of Teachers, and it involves about 125 public and private groups. The AFT announced last fall that 875 laptops would be provided to middle school students, but it took longer than expected to make that happen.
Janet Bass, spokeswoman for the AFT, said they wanted to make sure that homes were wired for Internet access before giving out laptops. There were a few different groups involved but all the pieces are in place, and everyone is thrilled that it’s ready to go, she said.
Reconnecting McDowell launched in December 2011 and aims to improve the school district, as well as the surrounding community.
“Laptops have become an important tool for homework,” said Gayle Manchin, chair of Reconnecting McDowell, in a statement. “Once a student in rural McDowell logs on to the World Wide Web, the same world opens up to them as it does for everyone else.”
The $284,188 grant to McDowell County schools was cobbled together with $138,594 from the state’s share of Appalachian Regional Commission funds, and Connect2Compete matched it with $127,914 in discounts. McDowell County schools added $17,680 in an in-kind contribution for processing and training. Shentel Communication invested $10 million to provide Internet access to 10,000 McDowell households and is offering reduced rates for households with school-age children. A Shentel representative will explain to families this week how to connect to the Internet at home.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.