San Marcos CISD issues laptops to all middle, high school students


The district will also issue WiFi hot spots to students who don't have wireless access at home.

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — About 4,300 students in Hays County will have their own laptops this school year as San Marcos CISD rolls out its new technology initiative to make sure every student has access to the same resources.

Middle school students started picking up their Chromebooks Monday and will continue through Wednesday. High-schoolers will get their Windows laptops the first week of school. The district starts classes Monday, Aug. 26.

The district started giving students the devices last year, but this year every secondary student across three schools will have one.

“If they want to provide a research project and possibly a student doesn’t have access to a laptop to where they collaborate through Google Hangouts, now they have the ability to do that,” said Andrew Fernandez, executive director of communications at SMCISD.

In addition to issuing laptops, the district will provide WiFi hot spots to any student without access to wireless internet service. Administrators surveyed parents and found a small percentage who did not have WiFi access at home.

The laptop will be a tool for students like 6th-grader Victoria Rios. “I want to be a biomedic,” the 10-year-old said, “so I’m going to look up how the DNA works and stuff.”

She was at Goodnight Middle School Monday with her dad to pick up her new Chromebook. He’s a tech guy — “We have technology in basically every nook and cranny of our house,” Victoria said — but having a personal laptop still makes a difference.

“Allowing them to explore is just beneficial, just overall, to the learning experience,” said her dad, Eduardo Rios.

SMCISD joins a small number of other local districts that assign devices to every student, often called 1:1 initiatives.

Austin ISD started giving every high school student a personal Chromebook in 2017. Eanes ISD issues an iPad to every student; elementary-schoolers leave them on campus, but middle and high school students take theirs home.

Del Valle is expanding its 1:1 device program later this year. Currently, all sophomores, juniors, seniors, and freshman Early College High School students are assigned devices. This fall, the district plans to include all freshmen.

“All secondary campuses have hot spots and Chromebooks that can be checked out on an ‘as-needed’ basis,” Jonathan Harris, DVISD’s chief communications officer, added.

Students at Manor ISD’s New Tech Middle and New Tech High schools will take home individual iPads, and other students in the district have access to shared mobile device carts at school.

Round Rock, Pflugerville, Georgetown, Bastrop and Lake Travis ISDs all provide laptops, iPads and other devices to students while they’re in school, but don’t issue them individually.

Along with device carts, Hays CISD is also a “bring your own device” district, which allows and encourages students to use their personal technology to complete schoolwork.

“We have devices that students can check out for home use if they cannot afford their own device and they need one for homework or a class,” Hays CISD spokesman Tim Savoy said.

Lake Travis and Bastrop ISDs also encourage students to bring their own devices.

In San Marcos CISD, the new program roll-out has cost the district about $1 million each of the last two years, and Fernandez, the district’s spokesman, said the board will continue to invest in replacements and upgrades.

“We’ll adapt with the change, we’ll adapt with the technology,” he said. “Whatever we need to do to serve our students and staff.”

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