As many students return to school campuses in August, others will stay home to learn remotely. Both are options under Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders.
For those choosing distance learning, internet connectivity is key.
“We know, for some folks, it’s just going to be a limitation that’s going to be very difficult to overcome,“ said Dr. Chris Allen, superintendent at Marble Falls Independent School District.
MFISD is seeking ways to bridge this technological gap.
“For those where in-person instruction is just not going to work and they need to do remote instruction, internet access is one of those things that’s going to require cooperation between the district and the parent,” Allen said.
Many businesses, churches, schools, and other spots are offering free Wi-Fi to students. The district has a list of places on its Wi-Fi information page.
In the spring after the statewide school shutdown, MFISD parked Wi-Fi-equipped buses across the district for student use. These might not be options in the fall as the buses will be needed for transportation. In the upcoming year, students learning remotely will be required to “attend” class in real time online, which might not be feasible while sitting outside of a bus.
The district has also invested in mobile hot spots as an option for regular internet access. The devices are handheld and smaller than an iPhone 10.
Chevrolet Buick Marble Falls donated $3,000 so MFISD could purchase its initial supply of the devices. The school district is also in the process of trying to acquire more through a cooperative purchase with the assistance of the Texas Education Agency.
“Those hot spots are good, but they do not provide the same bandwidth that you’d get through home internet or other means,” Allen said. “This is part of the reason that we’re committed to trying — as long as the numbers and the health authorities and the state allows, as long as we can do it in a safe way — to make sure we have an in-person option.”