The Donna Independent School District in Donna, Texas, is rushing to install an extra dozen Wi-Fi towers in a move estimated to cost $3.7 million. The public undertaking will bolster the entirety of the city’s wireless infrastructure, though all of its near-term goals are exclusively tied to supporting its over-encumbered education system. Namely, local administration estimates over half of the district’s students lack access to contemporary Wi-Fi Internet at home – that’s about 7,700 out of 14,500 of them.
Another rural U.S. district in “dire need” of high-speed Internet access
Given the current state of affairs, the new towers won’t enjoy much idle time anytime soon; all public education in the region is still required to be online-only until September 27th and it’s likely that term is likely to be extended in the coming days.
Donna is far from the only rural U.S. district that’s currently struggling to set up an adequate environment for online learning. Even much larger localities such as Chicago have been in an all-hands-on-deck mode for months now, scrambling to secure funding so that the public education system can continue serving the most disadvantaged members of their communities.
If anything, Donna is doing remarkably well, all things considered. Superintendent Hafdeh Azaiez confirmed WiFiRus has been contracted to complete the installations, all of which will be on school properties across the district. Every single tower will service a one-mile radius, which will hopefully be enough to address what Azaiez labeled a “dire need” of equal importance to water and electricity.
While Donna officials seem to be handling the ongoing crisis in a capable manner, the district doesn’t exactly have a lot of room for error in regards to ensuring online classes can take place. The Texas Education Agency currently has its ISD rating listed as “academically acceptable” and it’s likely that classification would get downgraded should the district fail to organize inclusive online classes.
Besides wireless service, the district will also procure mobile devices for its students. Third- and fourth-graders will receive Chromebooks, whereas everyone else all the way to preschool programs will be issued iPads. This gear isn’t something the district just happened to have on hand, as local officials revealed the Apple hardware set them back $5.7 million.