UPDATE 3/23/12 @ 6 p.m.
MINGO COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Phase II of the Global Gateway Launch at Tug Valley High School kicked in Friday. Now, in addition to every 11th-grader having their own laptop computer, 10th-graders have them as well.
A note sent out by Principal Johnny Branch says, "The computers are for learning us at school and at home. This technology gives our students 21st century learning opportunities and transforms the way teaching and learning occur in the classroom."
Marie McCoy is a social studies teacher who's already seen the impact on her 11th grade students. Attendance since getting the computers has significantly improved.
"I've been so excited for my 10th-graders to get theirs," McCoy says. "It makes instruction so much easier. It has improved the achievement level of my kids, and I'm just really excited to work with them today."
The hope is to have a computer in the hands of every single Tug Valley High School student by November of next year.
More than 100 high school juniors, the entire 11th grade, have new IBM laptops.
"I think it's going to make a huge difference in school and how we do our work," 11th-grader Nathan Marcum says. "I'm excited."
That's news principal Johnny Branch wants to hear. He's thrilled with the enthusiasm surrounding this Global Gateway Project. It's an initiative paid for through school levy money and state and local grants.
"This isn't just about computer hardware. It's about having lesson plans and objectives to back it up," Branch says. "It's a way to help chart academic progress."
The computer giveaway is being done at both Tug Valley and Mingo Central schools. The students don't actually own the computers. They're the property of the school, but the students are able to take them home and expected to do assignments on them.
"It's more than just writing papers and using it as a word processor," English teacher Lorraine Davis says. "We're expecting the students to use them as a tool for critical thinking."
Survey's done by the administration show that roughly 16 percent of the student body has no access to the Internet at home.
"It's not only a cultural challenge, Branch says. "But there are also parts of this county where, physically, there is no Internet service. That's something we're working hard to try and change."
Alex Elkins is an 11th-grader who's hoping the new laptop may change her dad's outlook on technology.
"He doesn't really trust computers," Alex says. "He doesn't want me around them, but I'm like, 'Dad, it's the 21st century; it's not the 1900s anymore. You got to get used to it.' "
Tug Valley's juniors are the first in line for the computers; the rest will come in waves. The hope is to have new laptops in the hands of every high school student by this Thanksgiving.