Press Release

‘Reconnecting McDowell’ Set to Distribute Free Laptops To McDowell Middle School Students

For Release: 

Friday, March 14, 2014


Janet Bass

WHAT:        Laptop distribution to middle school students
WHERE:      Mount View Middle School, 960 Mount View Road, Welch, W.Va.
WHEN:        Monday, March 17, 5:30 p.m.

Speakers include:
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (invited)
Gayle Manchin, chair, Reconnecting McDowell
Earl Gohl, co-chair, Appalachian Regional Commission
Nelson Spencer, superintendent, McDowell County Public Schools

WELCH, W.Va.—Every middle school student in McDowell County, W.Va., will be given a free laptop next week, starting on Monday evening with an event at Mount View Middle School.

Thanks to the contributions and efforts by West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Connect2Compete and the Reconnecting McDowell partnership, 875 laptops will be distributed to students and their parents or guardians—first at Mount View, then at Sandy River Middle School in Avondale, W.Va., on Tuesday evening and at Southside K-8 School in War, W.Va., on Wednesday evening.

"Laptops have become an important tool for homework. 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," said Gayle Manchin, chair of Reconnecting McDowell.

"We have the ability to personalize learning, build confidence, and improve student performance through the effective use of new technologies in the classroom," Gov. Tomblin said.  "Through this partnership, students at Mount View, Sandy River and Southside middle schools will now have access to laptops for homework, research and other school projects."

Earl F. Gohl, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, said his organization was pleased to support the work of Reconnecting McDowell with laptops.

"This is just one of many projects Reconnecting McDowell has spearheaded, and the laptops we are distributing will help the middle-school students of McDowell County build the skills they need to become the successful workforce of tomorrow," Gohl said.

The $284,188 grant to McDowell County Schools comes from several sources. At Reconnecting McDowell's request, Tomblin allocated $138,594 from the state's share of Appalachian Regional Commission funds; Connect2Compete matched it with $127,914 in discounts; and 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 at the meetings how to connect to the Internet at home.

Reconnecting McDowell, launched by the American Federation of Teachers in December 2011, now has about 125 partners from business, government, labor, non-profit organizations, foundations, universities and the community, working on the intersecting problems of underperforming schools, chronic poverty,  very limited healthcare and social services, acute housing shortages, a declining economy and high unemployment.


# # # #

The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.