Students of the Greenwood-Leflore School District will have their own Google Chromebooks and internet hotspot device to start the new school year.
The Greenwood-Leflore School Board unanimously voted Tuesday to accept a $1 million T-Mobile EmpowerED grant.
Two representatives of T-Mobile, Kevin Thompson and Eric Gerlach, were present at the meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Mary Brown said the recently awarded grant would allow the district to provide its nearly 5,000 K-12 students with their own devices.
Both the Leflore County and Greenwood school districts had worked together since December to apply for the grant and had gone through three rounds of interviews.
Thompson of T-Mobile said the consolidated school district has been the first in Mississippi to be awarded the grant.
Essentially, Thompson said, the grant provides $200 for each student, with enough money allotted if several more students enroll in the school district prior to the start of the school year.
The grant lasts two school years and afterwards the school district would get to keep the devices, Thompson said.
The devices will not allow students access to inappropriate content online.
The devices will be the responsibility of the school district, Thompson said.
Similar to a textbook, the student would have the Chromebook for just the school year and would have to return it by the end of the year, said Charles Johnson, the Greenwood School District’s director of federal programs.
He applied for the grant on behalf of the consolidated school district.
Johnson added that parents would have to pay for the device if it’s lost or stolen.
The grant program, Thompson said, does provide a limited number of parts to provide repairs should a device be broken.
Prior to voting, Board Member Randy Clark asked what the school district would achieve from the grant.
Gerlach of T-Mobile said that the purpose of the technology grant, which is only awarded to school districts that have a high dropout rate and number of students who receive free or reduced lunches, among other criteria, is to close the “digital divide.”
He said lots of students live in homes that either have no or unreliable internet connection.
“We’d really like to help you get these kids all internet at home... to become lifelong learners,” Gerlach said.
Thompson added that students are now learning online and the technology should enhance students’ in-classroom learning experience.
The Chromebooks would be able to connect to Wi-Fi at school. The provided hotspots would allow students to connect to the internet through cellular services at home, Gerlach said.
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