NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Students and teachers head back to the classroom Thursday in New Bedford, and while virtual learning is mostly behind them, the district continues to invest in technology upgrades.

“We’re always trying to upgrade, do better, be better,” New Bedford Superintendent Thomas Anderson told 12 News ahead of the first day of school.

Over the summer, the I.T. department at New Bedford Public Schools worked to get thousands of new devices — computers, Chromebooks, touchscreens and internet hot spots — ready for students upon their return.

The districtwide upgrade represents an investment of more than $3.8 million in technology, according to the district. About half of that went toward improving Wi-Fi infrastructure.

School leaders said the tech upgrades are critical for students to grow and thrive, not just academically, but socially and emotionally as well.

“Students at the high school, there are 900 laptops that they’re getting. All the middle school students, we have about 3,000 middle school students. They’re all going to have access to new Chromebooks and those types of things,” Anderson said. “We’re really excited about the year, and being able to continue working with our families, that’s the most exciting part.”

Some of the upgrades are focused on making sure students feel safe in the classroom. Those improvements include installing more security cameras and surveillance systems, as well as improving locks and doors.

Anderson said this adds to the safety investments the district has made over the past few years, like creating a two-layer vestibule entry system in elementary schools, for example.

“We’re doing this, not in a response but being proactive, but also knowing that it’s a very sensitive topic for a lot of people,” Anderson said. “Parents are sending us their best and their brightest. This is their most prized possessions, and we want to make sure that they know that we feel the same way about all the children who come to us.”

More safety improvements could be on the way. Last week, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker proposed allocating $40 million in legislative funding to go toward security upgrades in K-12 schools, colleges and childcare providers, an anonymous tip line, and a new statewide school safety website.

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