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Local school districts work to bridge 'Digital Divide' for online learners

Waco ISD and Temple ISD are providing laptops, tablets, and mobile hotspots to students who have chosen virtual learning.
Credit: KCEN

CENTRAL, Texas — Many parents have opted for virtual learning this year, but not everyone has access to the internet. School districts in Central Texas are providing electronic devices to students in order to bridge what's known as the digital divide.

Waco ISD and Temple ISD are among some of the last districts in the area to return to school and they have both begun distributing laptops, tablets, and mobile hotspots to students who have chosen virtual learning. 

"It's important that we ensure all students have access if they choose to be remote learners to technology and we will continue to provide those resources for our families," Christine Parks said, the chief of communications and community relations at Temple ISD. 

In order to meet the needs of their students, Temple ISD has purchased an additional 1,100 devices and 200 mobile hotspots provided by TEA for internet access.

Waco ISD has purchased more than 8,000 devices, and they plan on receiving an additional 6,800 this year. Plus a total of more than 2,700 mobile hotspots. 

In addition to devices and mobile hotspots Waco and Temple ISD will be providing WiFi through expanded parking lot signal at several schools and internet access at different apartment complexes in the area.

Nancy Alvarado, the math and technology instructional specialist at Alta VIsta Elementary in Waco was part of the distribution of devices. She said families have been grateful the district is able to provide the resources they need for those who want to stay at home. 

"They're just really thankful, first of all that they're able to choose whether or not their child comes back virtual or in person but also just the opportunity to have a device at home," Alvarado said. 

Free WiFi

City of Waco: All public libraries and three community centers.

Waco ISD 

•    We have purchased more than 8,000 new Chromebooks, iPads and laptops to support remote learning, and we are planning on receiving an additional 6,800 devices this school year.  

•    We have reached 1:1 device depOloyment of Windows laptops at Waco High School and Chromebooks at secondary campuses including University High School, Cesar Chavez Middle School and     Tennyson Middle School.

•    An additional 2,200 mobile hotspots have been secured and will be available to students who need them, bringing our total to more than 2,700 hotspots.

•    We have purchased six "SmartBuses" that will broadcast a safe and secure internet signal for remote learning. These buses will be parked at apartment complexes during the day. 

•    Our technology team has expanded high speed, wireless internet connectivity outside of several secondary campuses including University High School, Waco High School, G.W. Carver Middle and     Cesar Chavez Middle schools. Students will be able to walk on campus and outside to access the internet. And our technology team is working to bring this service to Indian Spring and Tennyson     middle schools.

•    Waco ISD's own private fiber network has also been developed and will provide a faster, more stabilized and reliable connection district-wide.

•    We have partnered with the Waco Housing Authority to provide Wi-Fi access at Estella Maxey, South Terrace and Kate Ross. 

Temple ISD

•    1100 additional devices purchased to support remote learning this year

•    200 mifis provided from TEA to support internet access

•    WiFi is available through expanded parking lot signal at all TISD campuses and 5 additional hotspots have been set up district-wide for student access:  Adams Bend Apartments, Canyon Creek     Apartments, Crestview Apartments, Rain Tree Apartments and Waymon Manor Apartments