For 21,000 DISD students, shelter-in-place means homework in a car

Apr 21, 2020 by

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The coronavirus is exposing things that our city, frankly, isn’t good at. Take, for example, the category of inequality known as the digital divide. Internet service is a tool of opportunity, a means of access to markets and information in much the same way that electricity or farm-to-market roads were in previous generations. Yet Texas ranks 38th in the U.S. in broadband adoption, with more than a third of Texas households unconnected.

And Dallas, along with Houston, San Antonio, El Paso and Corpus Christi, ranks among the top 25 large U.S. cities with the worst connections, according to census data.

Now, the need to close that gap has become more urgent with regard to education. With schools closed because of coronavirus, instruction has moved online, but 30% of Dallas ISD students don’t have reliable internet access at home, according to the district’s own survey. That’s 46,000 kids who can’t participate in class, can’t watch the videos posted by their teachers and can’t submit homework assignments. The solution many have found is “scabbing” public Wi-Fi networks in the parking lots of schools, libraries or McDonald’s.

The district is working to address the problem. It has distributed 9,300 mobile hotspots. Another 15,000 hotspots should be available by the end of this month thanks to spending authorized by the board of trustees and a donation from the McDermott Family Foundation. Still, that leaves upwards of 21,000 students looking for access from friends, family or the corner store, assuming they have a means of getting to those places.

Source: For 21,000 DISD students, shelter-in-place means homework in a car

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