Photo: Tracy Maness / Staff Photo
Using drive-thru distribution, Katy Independent School District is fulfilling more than 31,000 requests for technology devices, as all district students will be learning from home through at least Friday, Sept. 4.
Families are borrowing devices including Chromebooks, laptops, iPads and hot spots at their schools through grab and go curbside pickup lines from 3 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, but devices will also be available upon request. To request a device, visit https://publicbiapps.katyisd.org/DeviceCheckout/.
While in-person instruction is slated to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 8, for 49 percent of the district’s students, 51 percent have elected to learn through Katy Virtual Academy for at least the first grading period, according to a statement from Superintendent Ken Gregorski.
A news release stated that the need for devices has increased from more than 12,000 requests for the spring 2020 semester as campuses initially closed for COVID-19.
“We’re excited because we want our students to have the learning resource that’s going to be their classroom on Wednesday. They have to have a computer in order to get connected for their classroom since we’re all online for three weeks,” said Director of Instructional Technology Darlene Rankin.
Providing devices for families with multiple children can get expensive. Rankin said the district taking care of some of those needs “equals the playing field” and makes sure that each child has their own way to log in and learn.
“Each of the students will have a teacher to connect with on Zoom and get assignments through our learning management system,” Rankin said. “So then they will definitely have the ability for each of them to have their own device where they don’t have to be in that shared environment to connect whenever their sibling isn’t using the device.”
She explained that public education supports students with what they need, whether it’s a math textbook or supplies that a family cannot afford. Loaning out technology devices is no different, she said.
Rankin wanted parents to know that their students can use personal devices for virtual learning. The district has a single sign-on environment that allows them to log in and access the resources they need.
Tay Washington has two daughters in Katy ISD, one kindergartner and one sixth grader. She said the sixth grader is excited for the start of school because she likes to learn online, but her youngest was excited for the first day of kindergarten.
Washington said the line to pick up a laptop at Mayde Creek Junior High took less than five minutes and that she was grateful to receive the assistance from the district.
“It’s awesome. It’s very much appreciated, convenient. Saves us a lot of money from having to go out and purchase a laptop,” Washington said.
After the initial three weeks of school, Washington’s girls will continue with Katy Virtual Academy because she said she wanted she wasn’t sure about sending them back to school with the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Washington said their family has a couple of laptops at home, but she uses one for work. So receiving another one was appreciated.
Parents can also request a hot spot to provide an internet connection for learning. But by emailing Katy ISD tech support at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 281-396-7400, they can receive information about free and reduced-cost internet service providers so that children can be ready for school over the next several weeks.