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Tech Plan Puts Education at Students’ Fingertips

Feelings of pride and excitement were overflowing last week at La Merced Elementary in Montebello where fourth and fifth grade students became the first of thousands of Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) students to receive wireless laptops as part of a district-wide step toward bringing 21st century technology into the classroom.

MUSD was awarded over $6 million through the federal E-Rate Technology program, which is providing funding for 12,500 laptops with 3G/4G cellular wireless access. The laptops will be distributed to all 4th through 9th grade students for use in the classroom and at home.


Students at La Merced Elementary in Montebello were the first to receive wireless laptops as part of a district-wide program for 4-9 graders. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Gloria Diaz-Garcia and her husband Eric Garcia were overjoyed that their children’s school was picked by MUSD board members and superintendents to be the first to receive the laptops.

Diaz-Garcia told EGP they feel honored and grateful that their children are getting access to technology that will help them compete academically, and expose them to the world beyond their neighborhood.

“Through this technology, not only can they improve their skills, but they can see the world,” Garcia said. “A lot of people can’t travel but this way they could travel through the Internet.”

Their son Christian is in the 4th grade and he told EGP that he is excited about the changes taking place in his classroom.

“I never had a computer [before] at school,” he said. “Instead of writing, we’re just going to type!”

The first distribution was a historical day for the district, MUSD Board President Hector Chacon told EGP, noting that only a few school districts across the country received the grant.

“Not all students in the nation are fortunate enough to have this technology in the classroom,” Chacon said.

LA Merced parent Esperanza Reynosa told EGP that the funding grant is a help to parents who would otherwise not be able to provide computers to their children.

“Some parents are going through economic struggles so [the laptops] are going to be a really great tool for their children to advance in schoolwork,” Reynosa said.

Not until the students are taught how to use and care for the laptops, however, and they get the required agreement forms signed by their parents, will they be able to take the laptops home to work on homework and to access the Internet.

Cristina Baeza was one of the first students to receive a laptop. She told EGP that once she learns how to use the software she will be able to work on class projects and presentations at home.

Iris Molina told EGP her daughter was very excited about having a laptop in class and expressed relief that these young students will be taught how to use technology responsibly.

“It’s a good to start learning technology in a school setting where they’re going to show her how to use it as an educational tool,” Molina said.

The rest of the school district’s 4th through 9th graders will receive laptops in the coming months, according to Chacon. He said the new laptops will help give students a  “21st century learning” experience.

“It will give our students a competitive edge with technology,” Chacon said. “It’s going go help them learn and integrate the classroom with technology.