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Dallas ISD is buying thousands of mobile hot spots to send home with students who don't have internet access.EXPAND
Dallas ISD is buying thousands of mobile hot spots to send home with students who don't have internet access.
Tony Webster / Creative Commons

Dallas ISD’s Wi-Fi Hot Spots Are Coming but Could Be Weeks Away

Dallas ISD students who don't have internet access at home may have to wait a few weeks to receive mobile Wi-Fi hot spots.

At a meeting last week, the district's board of trustees voted unanimously to spend up to $2.5 million to buy 12,000 mobile hot spots to send home with students who don't have internet access in their residences. This week, Jack Kelanic, the district's chief technology officer, said he expects those devices to go out to students in the next three to four weeks.

Dallas school officials announced last month that buildings across the district would be closed indefinitely to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. When students and teachers returned from spring break on March 23, all classes were online.

After the closures were announced, the district sent surveys to about 77,000 families asking about internet access at home. Of the roughly 18,000 families that responded, about 30% said they didn't have internet access. During last week's meeting, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said a lack of internet connectivity was "a significant problem" for the district and its students.

Before school closures began, the district worked to send all students in grades 6-12 home with some kind of computing device to allow them to do schoolwork. During last week's meeting, Kelanic said the district is working on a plan to get those devices to younger students, as well.

On Tuesday, Kelanic told the Observer that the $2.5 million authorized by the board, combined with other money raised by the Dallas Education Foundation, should be enough to buy Wi-Fi hot spots to lend to any student who needs one. But those hot spots are in high demand, Kelanic said. Large school districts and some major companies across the country are all trying to buy them for the same reason as Dallas ISD. So it will be a few weeks before the district has the hot spots in hand, he said.

That delay leaves students who don't have internet access at home unable to do schoolwork until the hot spots come in. Typically, a student who needed to use the internet for school could go to a public library, coffee shop or other place with free Wi-Fi. But those places are also closed.

In the meantime, Kelanic said his best suggestion for students and their families is to look into other free options. In response to school closures nationwide, a number of internet service providers are offering no-cost, temporary Wi-Fi packages for students and teachers who don't have internet access at home.

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