Dallas ISD Works on Connectivity Issues for Students Learning at Home

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Some students may be back in the classroom, but about half the students in the Dallas Independent School District are still learning from home and the need for reliable internet at home is still a significant issue that hasn't been fully addressed.

For months NBC 5 has documented all the students in Dallas without reliable internet access in their homes, which makes learning virtually difficult since they just can't connect.

Dallas ISD has delivered more than 23,000 hot spots, and another 10,000 are on the way. Dallas ISD's Information Technology director Sean Brinkman says it's still not anywhere near enough as requests for hot spots keep pouring in.

"We're still continuing to receive requests from families every day we're probably going to have to go back and ask for additional hot spots to cover all the requests because the demands been pretty high," said Brinkman.

There are thousands of kids in Dallas ISD still out there needing hot spots with no immediate cash to buy them. Even worse, many of the hot spots the district does have aren't working for students. Often they don't have a reliable signal, because they're just not good cell coverage.

"What we're finding out in some places we're finding hot spots are even an issue just because it's just a dead area," said Brinkman. "We're looking for other solutions to see if we can increase the coverage in those area as well."

The areas with the most coverage problems are in Southeast Dallas, the exact same area with the highest number of students without internet in their homes.

It's why just yesterday district leaders went to the school board to tell them they're going to need money, a lot of it, to address this problem.

It's a three-part plan. First, relying on hot spots as best they can right now, second sign deals with internet service companies like Spectrum and AT&T to run wired internet into some families homes with the district picking up the tab. And third, moving to cell towers like the ones up and running in Castleberry ISD. Those towers can be shared with other neighboring districts and everyone pays part of the bill.

Right now, Dallas ISD is looking at putting cell towers up at five high schools as a test run -- Pinkston, Roosevelt, South Oak Cliff, Lincoln and H. Grady Spruce.

If all goes well, the plan is to put up more throughout the city with everyone from the school districts to hospitals even the Dallas Mavericks helping cover the cost.

"I know the leadership of the state is very much in support of this," said Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. "There's going to be very little new money, I think this would be the place they will spend new money."

If you think the need for hot spots would be less since about half of Dallas ISD's students are back in the classroom think again.

"It's so volatile right now we just don't know from day to day, these kids could be face-to-face one day and then they're back out virtual," said Brinkman.

The district does have hot spots from different cell companies and they are going out to homes testing them to figure out which one works best in different neighborhoods. The hope is they can help students get by for now until they can get those wired connections up and running and then cell towers in some neighborhoods by next school year.

Contact Us