Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove is taking the first step to craft a plan to put computers in every public school classroom and connect them to the internet by 2002: He’s forming a task force he will cochair with state Superintendent of Education Richard Thompson.

“It’s something that I support very strongly. I’m willing to chair this effort to make sure it happens,” said Musgrove, who highlighted the priority in his Feb. 9 State of the State address.

The plan “is fairly specific, and we have been working very diligently to put a computer in every classroom,” Musgrove said.

The task force will have 16 to 18 members, including representatives from the Mississippi Economic Council, Public Education Forum, state PTA, Information Technology Services, and Council on Educational Technology.

“We are trying to get together all the interests that would naturally be involved,” said David Cole, Musgrove’s chief of staff.

It will take effort on two fronts: money to buy the computers and equipment, plus community labor for schools not wired with extra phone lines that lead to individual classrooms, so the computers can be linked to the internet, he said.

“It will basically be a multi-pronged effort regarding private partnership funds from foundations and businesses. It will involve some state funding for match and initiatives in local communities to pull the wire for the buildings,” Cole said.

Of the state’s 1,006 schools, 920 are connected to the internet, said Nathan Slater, director of the Department of Education’s management information systems.