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Musgrove stumps locally for classroom computers

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove addresses local officials and business leaders Monday at Entergy on U.S. 61 North about plans to put Internet-accessible computers in every classroom in the state. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[05/15/01] Thirteen of the 14 schools in the Vicksburg Warren County School District will share 151 of the more than 6,000 computers to be installed in Mississippi schools under a program announced by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in February.

Musgrove was joined in Vicksburg Monday by Carolyn Shanks, president and chief executive officer of Entergy Mississippi, in a two-day state tour to begin a drive to raise $2 million to help finance Internet-capable computers in every public school classroom in Mississippi.

The only school in Warren County not on the list is South Park Elementary School, said Jimmie Mullins, assistant superintendent of education. South Park already has Internet access in every room and the 151 computers listed for Warren County will make that the case for each classroom in the district. There are about 600 classrooms in the district.

When he announced the program to install Internet-capable computers in every Mississippi public school classroom, Musgrove set a deadline of the end of 2002 to accomplish the goal and formed the Classroom Technology Task Force to do the job.

At the same time in February, the state signed a contract with six computer firms to supply 12,602 computers at discounted prices. The 6,325 announced Monday will be the first phase of the installations. The installation should be complete this month.

Musgrove said students in Mississippi will have the same opportunity to do research or have access to information as any student anywhere in the nation.

During brief remarks to about a dozen local business people, Musgrove called the computers a valuable tool that teachers can use to increase the amount and timeliness of the information available to students.

“In today’s world, if a student walks out of the 12th grade without having technological skills” his marketability is low, Musgrove said.

“It will make a major statement outside the state of Mississippi for our state to be the first one in the nation to have every classroom in every school to have an Internet-capable computer,” Musgrove said.

The funding for the project, the governor said, is coming from a public-private partnership for which Shanks is heading the fund drive in the private sector.

The Mississippi Legislature approved $2 million as the state’s share, another $2 million was raised from technology companies and Shanks’ committee is to raise $2 million from local businesses.

Shanks said students without computer skills don’t even get a foot in the door in today’s job market.

Because of the computer program Mississippi “students will be able to compete anywhere in the world,” she said.

The idea of the tour is to attract donors.

“One of these computers costs right at $1,000, and even small communities could get 10 people to put up $100 each,” Shanks said. “We want the people to feel they have some ownership in helping their children and their neighbor’s children.”

Musgrove said all of the money raised in a community will be used for the computers in that community. The communities that cannot raise all the money to help pay for its schools computers will not be left out. The money from the private foundations will be used to make up the difference.