Bridging the digital divide: SCS students to receive laptops this fall

Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 7:17 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A goal for Shelby County Schools, even before the pandemic hit, was to bridge the digital divide. The district is one step closer thanks to CARES Act funding.

On Monday Shelby County Schools Board of Education approved 8-1 a digital device plan that provides thousands of students with digital devices.

"Approximately 90,000 students will receive, starting this fall...will receive a new computer and those students will also receive Wi-Fi based on need,” said Kevin Woods, Shelby County Board of Education member.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray expressed his excitement immediately after the plan was approved.

“I just want to thank all the board members, I really appreciate you,” said Ray. “This is the first step of us re-imagining education in Shelby County.”

The plan approves a $44,926,307 contract for a four-year lease with Microsoft for digital devices that will benefit K-12 students. Money from the CARES Act will help fund this.

Woods, who voted for the plan, says there is a temporary solution that will offer students who need one, an internet connection.

"The short term solution is going to be providing MiFi devices, these are handheld connectives,” said Woods.

Woods also says the long term goal is establishing permanent broadband services and says conversations on this will begin to take place in the near future.

He also emphasized bridging the digital divide has been a discussion for many years.

"So what the pandemic simply did was put a bright light on the challenges of Memphis and Shelby County as we simply seized this opportunity to do what was right for kids,” said Woods.

Woods says devices will be handed out from August to October.

We also reached out to Scott McCormick, the one school board member who voted against this plan, but did not hear back.

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