With Many Learners On the Wrong Side of the Digital Divide, This Appalachian District Has Handled Hybrid Learning with Resilience

In the mountains of southern West Virginia, McDowell County forms an isolated and tight-knit community. Once a thriving county supported by nearby coal mines, McDowell has changed a lot over the past decades. Downtown Welch, the seat of the county, reveals streets lined with now empty shops and a suffering local economy. One source of local pride remains McDowell County Schools and how the district has handled the shift to hybrid learning.

An order for laptops is still delayed. Some students hand in assignments by taking a picture and texting it to their teachers. Learners with a history of drug abuse or absenteeism are struggling. But despite these hurdles, hybrid learning is still in session five days a week.

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