Two local school districts are the recipients of a total of more than 5,000 Chromebooks for students: the Hattiesburg Public School District, which received 3,800, and the Petal School District, which brought in 2,000.
HPSD officials got their shipment of Chromebooks on Oct. 9, a measure that was made possible after the Mississippi Legislature allocated $200 million for Mississippi Connects Through the Equity in Distance Learning Act.
“We’re very thankful to the Legislature and our local legislative delegation for supporting this initiative,” HPSD superintendent Robert Williams said. “We’re very thankful for the devices that have been delivered; it’s pretty exciting.
“We look forward to providing students with those devices so we can continue to fulfill our mission of educating all students. This will provide us with more opportunities to ensure that all children have a device in the classroom, as well as connectivity at home.”
Over the next few weeks, Joshua George, who serves as technology director at HPSD, will work to distribute the Chromebooks to students on campuses, and tracking software will be used to keep tabs on the devices. With the addition of the new Chromebooks, HPSD is now 1:1 on the student to Chromebook ratio, meaning every student in kindergarten through 12thgrade is provided with a device.
“With the hybrid model (of learning), and the 100% online model that we offer here at Hattiesburg Public School District, it’s imperative that each student has a device at home and at school at the campus,” George said. “Our goal is for every student to have a device, and we were able to achieve that with the order that was placed and we received today.”
Depending on the grade, some students will be able to take the computers home, while others will use them solely in the classroom.
“Of course, our secondary students and our upper elementary students will be able to take the devices home,” Williams said. “We’re going to work with our lower grades – kindergarten, first grade, second grade – to help build their digital citizenship up, so that they can be good stewards of those devices. Ultimately, they will have devices at home as well.”
One challenge school officials are prepared for is the accidental breakage of some of the devices, causing an interruption in instruction time.
“The way that we plan to combat that is to have an additional amount of devices, more than the amount of students that we have,” George said. “(That way) we have a spare amount on hand to hot swap during those challenges.”
Officials from the Petal School District ordered their Chromebooks in mid- to late summer to get ahead of other orders throughout the country. Those purchases were made possible with monies from EDLA and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
“We’re excited to be able to have these Chromebooks available to our students and to our teachers,” district superintendent Matt Dillon said. “Of course, they’ve been in for a few weeks now, and we’re excited that this will be used by our students for daily assignments they’re doing, but also for testing and whatever else is needed by the teachers to deliver instruction.”
The Petal School District has a 1:1 student to Chromebook ratio. Grades seven through 12 are able to bring devices home, while lower grades will have access to the computers in the classroom.