MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — There’s good news for Berkeley County students because technology — devices as well as hundreds of Wi-Fi hotspots and other internet connectivity options — will be available to them when the new school year begins Sept. 8.
Superintendent of Schools Patrick K. Murphy credited the district’s technology department for having worked since early summer to ensure students would have needed devices.
“Because of their planning, purchasing and deployment, Berkeley County Schools is ready to launch both computer and internet devices for staff and students for the Return to Learn school year,” Murphy said in an email.
“All of our students will have a device for use in either the brick or click pathway,” he said.
The district’s back-to-school plan includes two options — in person (brick) and remote (click) — for instruction, five days per week.
Students who will be attending in person will return to school classrooms on a staggered schedule, every third weekday beginning Sept. 8 and concluding Sept. 18. All in-person students will begin five-day instruction on Sept. 21.
Students using remote learning will have instruction or assignments throughout the nine days of the staggered start.
Teachers returned to work Aug. 24.
“In mid-June, the order for devices was placed and deliveries are being received at this time,” Murphy said.
“We do anticipate experiencing a delay with some computer manufacturers but because BCS began implementing devices into our classrooms a few years ago, any delay we may experience with full shipments can be offset with devices currently on hand,” he said.
Board of education members approved in July a three-year lease with Apple Inc. to provide devices — approximately 6,400 iPads for students and 1,200 MacBooks to be used by teachers and other staff members — for remote learning at a cost of approximately $3 million.
Internet accessibility has also been addressed to help students work remotely, he said.
“To date, more than 750 internet hotspots have been deployed to our schools. We continue to prepare another 500 for placement where needed,” he said.
Students who qualify for free or reduced meal benefits can also qualify for a district-provided internet package, he said.
All of the district’s 32 schools have installed the necessary hardware for antennas as part of the state’s Kids Connect initiative, he said.
Gov. Jim Justice announced the new $6 million initiative in August that aims to provide 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across West Virginia’s 55 counties.
The program includes hotspots at all K-12 schools, 32 higher-education schools, 255 libraries and 31 state parks, according to Justice.
Providing internet connectivity is important for students who chose to attend school remotely, and will also be important if schools are required to close again, as happened in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Justice has said.
Musselman High School will have two locations to connect from the parking lot because the South Berkeley Library, located within the school, is antenna-connected as well, Murphy said.
Additional locations were made possible by the generosity of community businesses, educational partners and churches, and will be offered for those who want or need the parking-lot internet service, he said.