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Federal funds helping Wetzel County students boot up | News, Sports, Jobs

Reporter’s Notebook: Week seven at the West Virginia Legislature | News, Sports, Jobs
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NEW MARTINSVILLE — Wetzel County Schools will receive more than $870,000 from the federal government to purchase 2,000 laptops.

The $871,200 is coming from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which was financed by the American Rescue Plan Act and is distributed by the Federal Communications Commission to help schools and libraries purchase laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and broadband connections for students , staff and library visitors, according to a release from the office of Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va.

Wetzel County Schools is a one-to-one district, meaning each of the district’s approximately 2,300 students, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, has a Windows-based laptop assigned to them, Technology Director Ben McPherson said. All teachers and administrators have one as well.

The district has had the policy and technology for six years. When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools in the spring of 2020 and classes shifted to distance learning, “we were, oddly enough, ready for it,” Superintendent Tammy Wells said.

But computers aren’t just reserved for remote learning, McPherson said. The district’s schools utilize the Schoology learning management system, so students are using their devices daily, whether in the building or not.

“It’s how kids learn,” McPherson said. “It’s part of it, though, it’s not the whole thing.”

Wells said most children are using tablets before they get to school, so technology should be integrated into their educational experience.

“For us to shut down that off from them is counter-productive,” she said.

The school has been leasing the equipment, but the federal funds will allow them to purchase devices outright, McPherson said.

Another Mid-Ohio Valley School district, Doddridge County, is receiving $24,025 in the latest round of funding. Superintendent Adam Cheeseman said the district plans to allocate the money to outfit its school buses with Wi-Fi.

“We still have a lot of connectivity (issues) out in our rural areas,” he said.

Doddridge is “a large county by geography, not so much by population,” Cheeseman said, so having Internet access can be beneficial to students on long bus rides.

“Perhaps they can get some things done for school that they need to do,” he said.

To date, West Virginia schools, districts, libraries and other educational organizations have received more than $39 million from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, according to the release from Manchin.

“I am looking forward to seeing the positive impacts of this continued investment from the FCC and I will continue advocating to bring reliable, affordable broadband to every holler across the Mountain State,” Manchin said.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.


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