Monroe County schools pass out Chromebooks, finally becoming 1:1 5th through 12th grade

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MADISONVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After months of waiting, Monroe County Schools started passing out Chromebooks to students on Monday for the first time since the pandemic.

Sequoyah High students were the first to receive them Monday morning.

DeAnna McClendon, Superintendent of Monroe County Schools, said her district can finally be on the same level as other districts.

“We’re excited to death for our children to be able to come into the 21st century with everyone else and receive an actual, what we think of now as just another textbook, which is their Chromebook,” McClendon said.

She said it’s extremely big news, especially since the district just received new textbooks after 20 years.

Students felt the same way.

“It’s an exciting day because it’s like a revolution. We finally get to be part of the system of the next generation,” Samantha Beverly, a sophomore at Sequoyah High, said.

McClendon said whenever schools had to go to remote learning due to COVID-19, it wasn’t ‘virtual learning’ like most other districts because they didn’t have the technology.

Instead, they were using paper packets on those days out of the classroom.

“That’s a lot of passing out paper. That’s a lot of papers in COVID for teachers to touch to even try to grade. So you start to think about, what are the health issues with being what you you think of as a packet district,” McClendon said.

Now, the district will be able to offer virtual learning if need be.

McClendon said the district ordered the Chromebooks using CARES Act funding at the beginning of the school year, however, because districts nationwide were doing the same, it took months for them to come in.

She said teachers and students weren’t just sitting around using only text books though. They were preparing.

“We started our students very early thinking through, ‘how do I get into my Google account? How do I go into Google Classroom? What do my assignments look like? What does Clever look like,'” McClendon said.

Every school will have an IT staff member who can help troubleshoot any technology issues with the Chromebooks, according to McClendon.

She also said 45 teachers have been Google certified, and they have one staff member in the district who is the go-to for bigger Google programming issues.

Students had to watch a tutorial video as soon as they received their Chromebooks, but Sequoyah High Assistant Principal Kristie Talent said teachers and students have already incorporated online learning in the classroom.

“The teachers have learned how to utilize technology in their classroom. And so they’ve been working really hard on how to use Google platform, and how to use other platforms, and how to get everything ready for students to go digital,” Talent said.

McClendon said about 20-25% of Monroe County students don’t have access to internet at home, but district leaders found ways to provide it.

“Schools, their parking lots will be open access; we’ll be partnering with libraries and other places to make sure we have open access for our children; and then at the very least, out children will be able to put some assignments onto a jump drive,” McClendon said.

She said the district wasn’t able to afford hotspots with the first round of CARES Act funding, but she hopes they’ll be able to with funding from round two of the CARES Act.

McClendon said the great aspect about the Chromebooks is that they won’t only help during the pandemic, but they’ll also help the students in the future.

“Even if you are doing a job that you think that is low-tech, nowadays, even in low-tech jobs, you have to be able to utilize and use a computer,” McClendon said.

Talent had the same sentiment.

“It helps (students) to get the skills, and it helps them get educational advancements that’s not available prior to this because they don’t have the technology at home or at school. It helps them to be better learners and helps better prepare them for their future,” Talent said.

Students were extremely excited about the new devices as well.

“It’s pretty great. It’s actually phenomenal…It’s going to help because not a lot of people have internet and stuff and since COVID-19, we’ll have a lot more opportunities to get stuff done,” Samantha Beverly said.

“I know it’s like school, and it’s not the most exciting thing, but they’re neat and I’m looking forward to getting to use them in the future,” Cannon Amos, a sophomore at Sequoyah High, said.

McClendon said all students 5th through 12th grades should have a Chromebook by the end of January.

She said there is a $35 fee, but it’s solely for insurance.

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