Officials say they need nearly $200 million more to bridge digital divide

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With many schools starting the academic year with virtual learning, the digital divide is still a big concern.

Some districts, like HISD, have already delayed in-person learning, meaning they will only have school virtually.

Virtual learning requires student have access to a computer and an internet connection. The concern is if students don't have a computer, they won't get the opportunity to learn.

Through the CARES Act, the state provided the Texas Education Agency with $1.3 billion.

SEE ALSO: Houston-area school districts' fall 2020 plans

The TEA is providing $200 million statewide for Operation Connectivity, an effort to provide technology to students.

The county's COVID-19 Recovery Czar says that's not enough.

"The state has resources, has CARES Act money as we speak. So I implore them, I implore them, thank you for the first $200 million, we need another 2 or 300 more million to bridge that digital divide," said Harris County's COVID-19 Recovery Czar Armando Walle.

The TEA said not only are they allocating $200 million for Operation Connectivity, they are also working to get matching funds of up to another $200 million dollars through public-private partnerships.

The TEA said that should help close the gap of the digital divide.

Fort Bend ISD is also hoping to bridge the gap.

They sent the following statement:

Fort Bend ISD will begin online instruction on August 17. Our online enrollment verification began Wednesday and will continue through August 3. During this time, in addition to regular back-to-school forms, parents are asked to complete a back to school readiness form to indicate what their needs are associated with transportation, connectivity, devices and childcare. We will use these responses in our planning, as we are planning to deploy devices and hotspots for families in need. It is important that our families complete the verification process so that we can ensure that they receive the devices they need (computers and hotspots).

Additionally, we are planning on opening "Learning Centers" at select schools that will provide a safe environment and connectivity for students to participate in online learning. The students will have adult supervision by a paraprofessional or other non-FBISD teaching staff so they will still participate in teacher-led online instruction from their provided space. We are prioritizing placement into these centers to our staff and local first-responders, and the need for internet connectivity during the instructional day and the need for adult supervision during the instructional day will also be factored in determining placement to the centers.


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