Lockhart ISD approves plan to fund network towers, creating internet access for every student

Education

LOCKHART, Texas (KXAN) — With 40% of students without reliable internet access, the Lockhart Independent School District Board of Trustees unanimously voted to help students get access on Monday.

The LISD board will pay to build four network towers, and partner with Particle Communications for access to three existing towers, to make sure the entire district has wireless internet coverage.

The district surveyed parents and found out that 60% of families had reliable internet at their home. With all the remote learning necessitated by COVID-19 school closures, district leaders knew they had to do something about the other 40%.

“As our leadership began planning for distance learning in response to COVID-19, we learned how many of our families either have unreliable internet or no internet service at all,” said Mark Estrada, LISD superintendent.

“Because of the urgency, our leadership team took swift action to review options and identify a solution to bring to the Board for approval. I am grateful to our Board for fully supporting the budget amendments that enable us to more immediately address this issue as quickly as possible,” Estrada said.

The district also passed out Chromebook computers to every student that needed one for remote learning.

The three existing towers are in Dale, Luling and Seawillow, and will provide internet within an 8-mile radius to students and staff by the end of the month.

The district will build four towers in Fentress, Maxwell and Uhland, along with one at Strawn Elementary School. When operational, the four new towers will combine with the existing ones for district-wide internet coverage by July, the district says.

For the first year, total costs for setup fees and installation of routers in homes, plus internet service for up to 500 homes, comes to $447,500, LISD says. Cost of internet service in subsequent years will be $60,000, and the district will be charged a fee for service each additional group of 50 homes after the initial 500.

In addition to the network towers, the board also approved for every classroom to have mounted projectors. They’ll get to use those once normal school operations resume.

“This is about equity. Every one of our Lockhart Lions needs to have access to the opportunities they deserve to grow and truly thrive,” Estrada said.

“With the actions taken tonight, we are demonstrating our Board and leadership’s commitment to ensure every learner in Lockhart ISD has access to an equitable and excellent education,” he said.

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