Marion County seeks laptop bids for exceptional education – Chattanooga Times Free Press

When classes begin this fall, students in Marion County’s Exceptional Education Department will begin toting laptop computers to help them learn.

The Board of Education is taking bids until noon CDT Aug. 1 for 60 Lenovo N22 Chromebooks. It is hoped the addition of the computers, a first for the department, will provide exceptional education students with the tools to catch up on their “skill deficits” throughout the day, said Mark Griffith, director of schools.

Griffith said exceptional education students in high school and middle school inclusion classrooms should be using the new laptops “soon after Labor Day.” Inclusion classrooms are those that include students of all abilities.

Officials said the laptops will go to Marion County High School, South Pittsburg High School, South Pittsburg Academy, Whitwell Highway School and Jasper Middle School. Whitwell Middle School already has Chromebooks for all its students.

Becky Bigelow, director of exceptional education, said the laptops teamed with Wi-Fi connections in the schools mean the students can use them anywhere. That solves the obvious shortcomings of desktop computers, which students had only limited time to use.

“I’ve been afraid we’re missing the gap, the actual skill deficit,” Bigelow said.

Middle and high school exceptional education students are so focused on regular curriculum standards to get a high school diploma that other skills are slipping through the cracks, she said.

“My thinking was that if we give them a more portable device that it would give them more access to programs that are focused on their individual deficits — reading comprehension, basic reading, math calculation, whatever their skill deficit is.”

Students will have to share the laptops for now, but officials will seek funding for more laptops later if the devices prove effective, she said. Up to 15 Chromebooks will be shared among 30 to 50 students at each of the five schools.

“Let’s say they are a seventh-grade student in the inclusion classroom and their reading level is on third-grade level with deficits in basic word-calling skills and reading comprehension,” she said, describing a hypothetical exceptional education student. “The way I would like for them to have access to that device is that they will have a specific time on that day that the device is assigned to them to work on their skill deficit.”

Students can take the laptops with them to class when it’s useful in particular subjects or tasks, she said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at, at 423-757-6569, on Twitter @BenBenton or on Facebook at


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