Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 15, 2014

Middle school students in McDowell to receive free laptop computers

WELCH — Every middle school student in McDowell County will be given a free laptop computer starting next Monday afternoon with an event at Mount View Middle School.

The laptop distribution is the result of contributions and work by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Connect2Compete and the Reconnecting McDowell partnership, Reconnecting McDowell officials said Friday. The 875 Dell laptops will be distributed to students and their parents or guardians Monday at Mount View, then at Sandy River Middle School in Avondale on Tuesday evening and at Southside K-8 School in the city of War 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,” Gayle Manchin, chair of Reconnecting McDowell, said.

Providing the laptop computers to the county’s middle school students makes better use of technology in their classroom work.

“We have the ability to personalize learning, build confidence, and improve student performance through the effective use of new technologies in the classroom,” 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.

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