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Local school districts continue to apply for state funds to bridge digital divide

Posted at 11:11 PM, Nov 19, 2020

ROBERTSON, TX — When the coronavirus pandemic first began and school districts were forced to shift online, there was a mad dash for technology. The state initially launched Operation Connectivity with a mission to close the digital divide.

However, that put a financial burden on school districts. On Wednesday, Governor Abbott, the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Division of Emergency Management announced a partnership for a $420 million reimbursement program to cover costs incurred by Texas public schools that purchased Wi-Fi hotspots and/or eLearning devices.

When Operation Connectivity first launch, the funds help Bremond ISD provide the necessary technology for students who chose remote learning.

”Mostly for Chromebooks. We did get hotspots for students who don’t have internet service, and we haven’t had to use very many of those,” said Superintendent Daryl Stuard.

The district, located in Robertson County, still faces many technological needs. Though they feel advanced compared to neighboring schools, they say there's room to grow.

”We’ve got plenty of technology needs. We're probably farther advanced than a lot of schools on the technology that we do have. But, you know, we're going to always find a way to use the money that they're going to give us for grant money, so we will be applying,” said Stuard.

Schools may begin applying for the reimbursement program on November 20. The state says this financial support is a continuous effort to support not only schools but parents and teachers.

"Texas is working on several fronts to support our local school districts amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This financial support will help students, parents and teachers overcome the challenges presented by remote learning as we continue working to bridge the digital divide," said Jane Nelson, State Senate Finance Committee Chairman.

Through Operation Connectivity, schools have been able to supply students with Wi-Fi hotspots, e-learning devices, and tablets. This has assisted Bremond ISD’s main mission to ensure all students graduate on time.

”Our plan is to do whatever we have to do to graduate on time. I do think that we will, especially for our younger grades, we will offer some sort of summer school,” said Stuard.

The school district has students who are learning both online and in-person. However, due to a recent lack of substitute teachers, they were forced to go fully remote.

”We made the decision to just go remote for these three days before Thanksgiving and will pick back up on the 30th after Thanksgiving. Hopefully that will give everybody time to get healthy,” said Stuard.

The school district closed on November 18 and is planned to return after the holidays. During this period of time, they will continue to utilize the remote learning tools funded by the state.