As districts across the state work on plans to reopen schools in August, Metro Nashville is working to ensure students will have access to online assignments should the district need to continue remote learning as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Mayor John Cooper announced during a June 8 press briefing that the city is working with Metro Nashville Public Schools to provide laptops and internet hot spots to thousands of students who do not have access to Wi-Fi in order to help them be able to complete remote learning assignments.

“The coronavirus has highlighted a digital learning divide in our community, as young Nashvillians who do not have the means to continue their education remotely and engage with their teachers and peers online are placed at a clear and early disadvantage,” Cooper said. “As of this morning, I am seeking and submitting council approval for approximately $24 million of our $121 million federal CARES Act Relief Fund to provide every public school student in Nashville and Davidson County with a laptop and internet access.”

District officials said the move is an important step in helping to create equity by providing more tools to help students learn.

“One of the biggest challenges our school district faces is the digital divide,” MNPS Director of Schools Adrienne Battle said. “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 in this city between Metro Nashville Public Schools and our public, private and nonprofit partners to bridge that divide.”

Cooper said the funding will be enough for each of the 84,000-plus students in the district to have a laptop. The funding will also provide 17,000 mobile internet hot spots, as the district estimates that about 20% of students lack internet access.

Battle said the district will present plans for its return to school in August during its June 9 board meeting. Districts in Greater Nashville have presented multiple scenarios, some of which include a hybrid of in-person and online instruction.

“Distance learning is a key element in our schools' reopening plan, which you will hear more about tomorrow,” Cooper said.