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Schools without Internet have plans to catch up

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McLish Schools is tired of being behind. All the nearby Oklahoma districts have been busy surfing the Web and downloading research on the Internet.

Not at McLish.

The tiny, rural school is not only be Web savvy, but a cyberforce compared with neighboring schools.

"We're going to beat their pants off!" Superintendent Ron Brown said.

Oklahoma's public schools lag far behind the national average when it comes to the number of Internet computers available to students. Ten districts reported no access at all in a 1999 state Education Department survey, but several of those are now online oron their way.

When class begins next year, there will be almost one Internet computer for every two students at McLish.

The 150-student district lacked the funding for Internet access until it won a state grant. It will soon have one of the best student-per-Internet computer ratios in Oklahoma.

"It's been a two-year process," Brown said. "We were behind everyone."

Bishop Schools is another district ready to make its first connection.

The Comanche County school is getting ready to go online after qualifying for an e-rate, a federal program that provides discounted rates for Internet access at public schools.

Bishop even received a state grant to help buy computers.

"It's a nice one-two, punch," Superintendent Howard Hampton said.

"We have a high poverty rate and many students don't have any access to the Internet at all," he said. "It will help get rid ofthe digital divide."
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