Texas school districts face race against time to get students connected to online learning

Friday, July 31, 2020
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One Texas district ordered thousands of computers for its students, but it's going to take time to get them. Will schools be ready for all-things-virtual?

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As school districts continue to offer online learning for the fall, districts across the country are rushing its massive orders to get the right technology into the hands of students who would otherwise be left behind.

The Texas Education Agency said on Thursday it has launched a Texas Home Learning initiative to provide remote learning software to Texas schools for free, collectively saving the school systems across the state millions of dollars over the course of two years.

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In a news release sent to ABC13, the TEA said it will be using funding provided by the CARES Act to get the technology to school districts.

Meanwhile, Galveston ISD joins the list of school districts that will be starting the school year with remote learning for the first four weeks, then transitioning students back into the classroom for in-person learning.

However, the district is unique in the sense that it has established the SAIL Remote Program, which was made for online learning, and it will continue to be a resource after the pandemic.

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Superintendent Dr. Kelli Moulton said the district anticipates the shipment will not arrive before the first day of school.

"Just like everybody across the world, we have ordered thousands and thousands of computers," Moulton said. "There are not that many computers available across the world, so it's going to take time to get them in. We would appreciate that parents utilize their own devices until we can do that. Together we can get this done, but we are asking for a little bit of grace time."

During ABC13's town hall on school reopenings amid the pandemic on Wednesday, leaders at HISD, along with Aldine and Spring school districts, said they are all starting the upcoming school year online.

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It was a central and shared issue when discussing how to bridge the digital divide and what would happen to the children left behind.

Interim Superintendent for HISD Dr. Grenita Lathan said this is a challenge districts have tried to overcome since schools first closed in March.

"We have about 23,000 devices that we need to deploy between now and Sep. 8," Lathan said during the virtual town hall. "We will be giving all those devices out. We have, actually, some devices. Also for teachers that are in need. So, yes, we're having to pay for it. Eventually, there should be some matching dollars back from the state as it relates to Operation Connectivity. The dilemma for HISD is we cannot wait for that bulk order. Due to delays that we're hearing for a number of months before those deliveries might be made. We've placed our order. We're waiting."

Comp-U-Dopt is working with a number of school districts to try to get computers to students. A spokesperson for the Houston-Galveston region of the organization said its goal is to get 10,000 computers and distribute them to students in need.

Some school districts are also working with organizations to establish learning centers to give students a safe space to complete their online learning.

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