NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville Mayor Cooper announced he will direct $24 million in funding from the federal coronavirus relief package to give every student in Metro Nashville Public Schools a laptop.
“The coronavirus has highlighted a vast digital divide in our community,” said Mayor Cooper. “Those who do not have the means to continue their education, engage with their teachers and peers, and benefit from free programs offered by Metro and our partners are placed at a clear, and early, disadvantage. We are making a historic investment in our public school students and empowering our educators to help bridge the digital divide that most often affects MNPS families in Nashville’s historically underserved neighborhoods.”
For the upcoming school year, 90,000 Dell laptops will be provided for students enrolled in both traditional and charter schools, each costing about $200.
The funds will also provide internet access for students in the district who may need it.
“Our city, under the leadership of Mayor Cooper, has taken a massive step towards equity. Our school board has been laser-focused on accelerating outcomes for all students,” said Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle. “One of the biggest challenges our school district faces is the digital divide. While some students have multiple devices to help them learn, talk to their teachers remotely and complete assignments, many do not. Thousands of our MNPS students don’t even have Wi-Fi. That can make remote learning a big challenge. But I know we have the capacity between Metro Nashville Public Schools and our public and private nonprofit partners to bridge that divide.”
The money will also provide mobile internet hot spots for 17,000 families in the district. MNPS surveyed families to determine how many had access to the internet and of those who responded, 15% said they do not have access.
The school district estimates 20% of families do not have internet access when adjusting for those who did not respond to the survey.
The announcement was made during Metro’s twice-weekly update on the coronavirus outbreak.
During the meeting, Dr. Battle thanked Mayor Cooper for directing the federal funds to the school district.
“Thank you so much for making our students, their learning and their growth a priority for Metro’s CARES Act funds. Because when our students grow, our city grows too,” said Dr. Battle. “They are our future, and as we saw with the march that many of them led and participated in last Thursday, they are our present too. These dollars and these devices will make a big impact on our student’s lives, and mayor, we can’t thank you enough for making that possible.”
Dr. Battle says this will level the playing field for students who have issues accessing a laptop. As of Monday, the school district did not make a decision on if students will return to in-person classes or online classes for the fall.
On Tuesday, Dr. Battle, alongside Mayor Cooper and Dr. Alex Jahangir, Nashville’s coronavirus task force chairman, will announce MNPS’s plans for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year amid the ongoing pandemic.