Every middle school student in McDowell County, W.Va., will receive a free laptop this fall, courtesy of West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Connect2Compete and the Reconnecting McDowell partnership.
The laptop distribution announced on Sept. 5 is one of several new activities Reconnecting McDowell is unveiling as the 2013-14 school year begins.
"These laptops are a way of leveling the playing field so that students in rural Appalachia have many of the same advantages as students anywhere else in the country," says AFT President Randi Weingarten. "Knowledge is power, and laptops and access to the Internet provide a huge boost. The goal of the laptop program over the next four years is to include elementary and high school students as well."
Tomblin says, "I believe in Reconnecting McDowell and the potential it has to improve our children's lives. That's why I support this laptop project." Tomblin serves as the 2013 state's co-chair for the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The $236,695 allocated to Reconnecting McDowell for the 875 laptops comes from several sources: Tomblin allocated $117,750 from the state's share of the Appalachian Regional Commission funds, and Connect2Compete matched it with $118,945. The laptops will be kept at the middle schools until the students and their families have been trained, security chips have been installed and households have wireless capability.
Frontier Communications, a Reconnecting McDowell partner, recently wired every McDowell County school with expanded broadband, and Shentel Communications, another partner, is nearly finished wiring 10,000 county homes and is offering reduced internet rates for families with school-age children.
"The productive partnership between Gov. Tomblin and Reconnecting McDowell is bearing fruit and the laptop grant is one of many recent examples that puts 21st century tools in students' hands," says Gayle Manchin, chair of Reconnecting McDowell and vice president of the West Virginia Board of Education.
In other back-to-school news from McDowell:
[AFT press release] September 17, 2013
[AFT press release]
September 17, 2013