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Education: West Virginia students need laptops, tablets

It was predictable. We were surprised when there was a shortage of face masks and other personal protective gear. But then a crash program was needed to find enough medical ventilators for COVID-19 patients. Now, the shortage is — you guessed it — affordable iPads and Chromebooks.

With school districts throughout the nation offering “distance learning” online, students need devices to connect to the internet. Associated Press reporters found there is a shortage of about 5 million laptops throughout the country.

Some school districts already were well on their way to equipping students with tablets and laptops. Still, there is a shortage of them in some areas of West Virginia, state school Superintendent Clayton Burch said this week.

Obviously, state agencies should get involved in helping county school systems find the laptops they need. The state has both more bargaining power and more search ability than any county.

Where there are shortages, students whose parents have opted for all-online learning rather than classroom attendance ought to have preference in being given the devices.

In the long run, West Virginia needs to ensure every student has access to a computer and to the internet. The COVID-19 emergency is merely accelerating a process we knew years ago had to be undertaken to ensure our children and grandchildren get good educations. That process should not be different from the beginning for the haves and have-nots.

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