Trustees approve purchase of more than 10,000 hotspots for students to help close digital divide

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To help close the digital divide, the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved up to $2.5 million to purchase more than 10,000 hotspots to ensure secondary students have Wi-Fi access while learning from home.

Survey responses from 18,000 Dallas ISD families showed that about 30 percent of district households don’t have Internet access. Dallas ISD Chief Technology Officer Jack Kelanic said the mobile hotspots–which provide access to high-speed Internet–are a near-term solution to support secondary students in successfully learning from home.

The devices enable students to access online instructional resources and the Internet in general, while also including security and content filtering to protect the students online.

“We have found that hotspots are an effective way to provide Internet access to our families,” Kelanic said. “It’s very important that all of our students have equal access to the best educational possibilities, even while we’re facing adversities.”

Meanwhile, the Dallas Education Foundation, the nonprofit philanthropic arm of Dallas ISD, is fundraising with the business community to purchase additional hotspots.

The district expects to start distributing the hotspots within several weeks. Secondary students interested in a hotspot should contact their principal.

Long-Range Master Technology Plan

The hotspots will build on the district’s established Long-Range Technology Master Plan, which has already provided a tablet or laptop to every Dallas ISD secondary student. Secondary students who did not take a device home prior to spring break have been able to pick them up from their home campus this week.

Kelanic said Dallas ISD’s past investment in technology and digital resources has been hugely beneficial as the district unexpectedly transitioned to at-home learning due to the coronavirus.

“The 2015 bond money has allowed us to aggressively roll out devices for our secondary students for the last 18 months, and that put us in a very good position to deal with this sudden transition,” Kelanic said.

Meanwhile, Verizon Innovative Learning Schools and the 1Million Project Foundation have been valuable district partners and previously provided cellular-enabled devices and free mobile hotspots to about 8,000 students.

Looking ahead, Dallas ISD is working to start providing laptops or tablets to students in grades 3–5 to allow for digital learning, while also identifying more long-term solutions to providing technology and Internet access to students.

“The closure of the schools and the move towards at-home learning really expedited our focus,” Kelanic said. “We will tirelessly work to support our students during this time of national crisis.”

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