Itawamba County School District (ICSD) held a special meeting on Monday to approve funding designed to equip students with the technology they need at school or at home.

ICSD received approval for the funds late Friday and had to have their plans submitted to the Mississippi Department of Education by Sept. 1.

The district is set to purchase 2,000 Chromebooks, 200 laptops, and 271 iPads.

Approved by the Legislature, the Equity in Distance Learning Act (EDLA) provides $150 million to school districts to pay for computer devices for students, teachers, software for instruction, enhanced internet connectivity, and professional development for digital teaching and learning.

Among the many stipulations required for eligibility for funding, schools must equip every student with an age-appropriate device, purchase the products from approved vendors unless they can beat the price, and secure insurance and submit proof.

From the state, the district received approval for $1,071,000 but had to dig deep into their budget to provide the $200k for their 20% portion of the funding.

Superintendent Trae Wiygul told the board that although the administrators had spent long hours working through the application process, it would provide much-needed technology for the county’s students.

“If we have to go back into a dilemma like the one we are in now, we’re ready for it,” Wiygul told the board. “I have to commend the administrative staff for making this possible.”

The new equipment is scheduled to arrive by November.

In other business, the board officially deemed teachers, staff, and faculty as essential workers.

In August, the Mississippi Department of Health made allowances for teachers or employees who are deemed critical or essential by schools to continue to work during the quarantine period if they are asymptomatic, have their temperatures and symptoms monitored, and wear a mask or face covering the entire time they are at school.

The allowance does not apply to students, who must be excluded from the school setting for the entire 14 days from their last exposure.

The double standard has the board’s hands tied when it comes to parents asking why their children cannot return to school under the same guidelines as teachers.

District 2 School Board Representative Wes Pitts said MSDH’s allowance is sending mixed messages.

“Essentially they are saying teachers can come back and students cannot,” Pitts told the board. “It defies logic in a lot of ways.”

Pitts said a student who is quarantined for 14-days might return to school and be faced with another 14-day quarantine.

Board president Wonda Cromeans agreed that the double standard made no sense.

“Legally our hands are tied,” she said. “We have guidelines we have to follow.”

Wiygul said parents who are concerned about the matter should call the MSDH to express their concerns and possibly that will bring about a change.

“Students have already lost too much valuable time,” Wiygul said. “The best thing for them is to be back in the classroom.”

Currently, Itawamba County School District has 13 teachers, faculty, and staff in quarantine. Only two of those have tested positive.

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