AUSTIN, Texas - Back to school time has been a rocky start for multiple school districts in Central Texas who are trying to navigate virtual learning for thousands of students.
On the first day of school for Leander ISD, so many students logged on at the same time it bogged down the district's server.
“We just didn’t have enough bandwidth to cover that all,” said Chief Communications Officer Corey Ryan.
Leander ISD is acquiring local and virtual servers to expand bandwidth capacity as well as upgrading students devices. The district is also removing Youtube as a site middle school and high school teachers can use to avoid eating up bandwidth.
Pflugerville ISD saw minimal technical glitches on their first day but learned not all families have access to the internet. The district has boosted wifi on campuses to stretch outside into parking lots for families and is working on providing wifi hotspots. Chief Communications Officer Tamra Spence said school leaders are recommending the Board of Trustees set aside $500,000 for the district to explore a variety of ways to serve their students.
“Some of these options we are reviewing include Wi-Fi hotspots and Wi-Fi buses which we could strategically place around the district in dense neighborhoods or apartment complexes,” said Spence. “We are looking for ways to meet our students’ needs in the most efficient way.”
Meanwhile in Dripping Springs, Amanda Bonilla has been juggling navigating working from home and being a teacher for both her daughters. Bonilla said her 4-year-old’s PreK class uses nine different apps.
“I still was frustrated and just started to cry about it because there was nothing I could do but figure it out,” said Bonilla.
Bonilla describes the first week of online learning as a bit bumpy but her girls now have a hang of it. She said their teachers have been a big help and her best advice for parents is to be patient.
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“I really feel that once we get everything down that we will be able to get the process to go a lot faster,” Bonilla said.
Austin ISD is using their delayed start to train-up teachers for virtual learning and is reaching out to families who still need devices. In early August, the district predicted about 10-thousand families would be left without Chromebooks because of the nationwide supply shortage.
“More than ever before the partnership between school and home is going to make or break this learning experience,” said AISD Academics Director Dr. Suzanne Newell.
Dr. Newell said the district which is made up of 52.4 percent of economically disadvantaged students is prioritizing equity and focusing on giving children without learning tools or assistance at home the ability to learn safely online.
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