HISD to spend $31 million on laptops and hotspots for virtual students

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The HISD School Board passed an amendment to its $2 billion dollar budget approved in June, which will add the purchase of digital devices and mobile hotspots to allow students without the necessary technology to return to school in virtual learning.

It's known as the digital divide, and the cost to bridge it, was $31 million.

According to the district, HISD has provided 76,362 devices and 6,628 mobile hotspots for students in need since COVID-19 closed schools early for the spring semester. An additional 22,750 devices, such as tablets and laptops, are planned to be distributed by next month, as well as more than 19,000 mobile hotspot devices.

The passed amendment totals $54.6 million. The remaining $23.6 million, according to the district, would be used for additional special education positions, PPP's to protect against the spread of the virus, distancing markers, as well as plexiglass dividers.

The return to school for most districts has gone through changes, based on the spread of the virus. HISD students will begin virtual instruction on Sept. 8. The first day of in-person classroom instruction will be Oct. 19, barring any changes.

The board will also discuss implementing a COVID-19 safety course, as maintaining safety procedures at schools when COVID-19 cases occur.

Trustees will also consider forming what's called a "District of Innovation Committee" to allow the district to qualify for the designation. A DOI designation would allow the district to set an earlier school start date, have flexibility from the state's 90% attendance rule, and increase its ability to hire teachers for career and technical education classes.

The agenda briefing virtual meeting begins at 5 p.m., with the board meeting to follow. It can be viewed at hisdtv.org.

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