All-virtual Jackson Public Schools receives 4,000 devices to get students connected

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Around 4,000 Chromebooks arrived at the Jackson Public School District’s warehouse on Thursday as part of the state’s massive effort to provide a device for every student.

Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America

Superintendent Dr. Errick L. Greene speaks during a public meeting about the findings of the student based study on the school district during a public meeting at the Jackson Convention Complex Thursday, November 29, 2018.

“It’s a happy day in Jackson,” said superintendent Errick Greene as he posed for a picture with fellow administrators, lawmakers and officials from the Mississippi Department of Education outside the warehouse.

The remaining 11,000 devices, which were purchased independently by the district, are scheduled to be delivered by Nov. 20, said Greene. The batch of devices delivered Thursday was ordered through the Mississippi Department of Education’s purchasing program.

The coronavirus pandemic forced districts across the state to reconsider how to operate safely this school year, and JPS made the decision to conduct school entirely virtually for the fall semester. Greene said these devices are for the nearly 5,000 students in the district who do not have a device or connectivity — particularly second graders and older.

“There are needs all over the district,” said Greene. “We’ve got about 25% of our scholars who are learning asynchronously — without a device and (using take-home) packets, that sort of thing. Our biggest priority is getting them connected.”

Kate Royals/Mississippi Today

One of 13 boxes filled with Chromebooks is delivered into the Jackson Public School District’s warehouse.

The district’s Chief Operating Officer Joe Albright said those students and their schools have been identified, and the devices will be delivered to those schools for parent pick up next week. Students will also be able to pick up WiFi hotspots if needed. The students who don’t receive one of the 4,000 devices delivered this week will receive one after future shipments arrive.

Around 150,000 devices of the 390,000 ordered statewide have been delivered as of Thursday, according to John Kraman, chief information officer at the Mississippi Department of Education. Another 100,000 are scheduled for next week and the remainder for the following week.

The deadline for delivery is Nov. 20, as determined by the state education department’s contract with its vendor. The deadline for schools to be reimbursed by the state for the devices is Dec. 1.

The Legislature earlier this year appropriated $200 million of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to the state education department to assist districts in implementing distance learning plans.