COVID-19 Live Updates: Lockhart ISD To Provide All Students With Internet Access

4 hours ago

We'll be updating this story throughout the day Tuesday with the latest local news on the coronavirus pandemic. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Monday, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Update at 8:59 a.m. — Gov. Abbott closing Texas state parks and historical sites

All state parks and historic sites are temporarily closing as part of the state's efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Greg Abbott's office said in a statement this morning. The parks and sites will close starting at 5 p.m. and reopen at the governor's direction, his office said.

"Social distancing is our best tool to curb the spread of COVID-19 and save lives," said Gov. Abbott. "The temporary closure of our state parks and historic sites will help us achieve this goal by preventing the gathering of large groups of people. I urge all Texans to continue to stay at home except for essential services as we respond to COVID-19. By following these social distance practices, we will overcome this challenge together."

Update at 7:22 a.m. — Austin ISD high school students will get pass or incomplete grades for the spring semester

The Austin Independent School District’s board of trustees passed a resolution last night addressing how to deal with grades as classes move online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The board approved the following measures: Class rank for high school seniors will be calculated with grades from up to the third quarter, which was the first six weeks of this spring semester. Classes that students are enrolled in this semester will not get A-F grades but instead their transcript will show pass or incomplete. GPAs for high school students will not include this spring semester.

Some board members brought up the concern that some families may have about how this could affect college admissions. But board members said colleges and universities will likely understand.

“Colleges are dealing with this too,” board member Amber Elenz said. “So I think it’s important for us to realize that every education system is going through this so we’re not the only school district and students dealing with this.” 

Update at 5:30 a.m. — Lockhart ISD to provide all students with internet access

Lockhart Independent School District is purchasing seven network towers to provide wireless internet to all of its students and staff in Caldwell County. The action comes as many of its students lack internet access at a time when it’s become critical: while students are learning online from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent survey found that 40% of LISD students lack internet access, the district said in a press release. While the district has passed out Chromebooks to students in need, many are still unable to participate in online learning. Parts of Caldwell County are “dead zones,” meaning they aren’t serviced by any internet provider, the district says.

The LISD board of trustees voted to amend the budget Monday night to allow for the purchase of these network towers. The district will partner with Particle Communications to access three already existing towers in Luling, Dale and Seawillow, which will provide internet service within an eight-mile radius to students and staff by the end of April. Additionally, the district plans to build four new towers at Strawn Elementary and in Fentress, Maxwell and Uhland. 

“In total, seven towers will provide internet coverage countywide by the end of this July,” the district says. 

The move will cost the district $447,500 for the first year. The cost includes setup fees for the seven towers, installation of routers in up to 500 homes and internet service for the first year. The annual cost for internet service after that will be $60,000.

“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,” Superintendent Mark Estrada said in a press release. “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.”

Until the towers are operational, the district is giving those unable to access the internet paper packets that cover topics others are learning online during distance learning.  

Catch up on what happened yesterday

Austin health official expects city's face-covering guidance will become a requirement 

The interim health authority for Austin-Travis County said he expects a recommendation for Austinites to wear fabric face coverings when they're outside the home to become a requirement.

The city's health officials first recommended on Sunday that people cover their faces while outside the home, following new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Mark Escott said Monday that the point of everyone covering their faces is not to protect the wearer from people who are sick; it's designed to protect other members of the public from the wearer. 

"We have increasing evidence that those without symptoms, as well as those who have very mild symptoms that may not even realize they could be infected, have the ability to transmit the disease," Escott said.

He said masks must be used along with social distancing, not as a substitute.

Other local news from Monday:

  • A food service worker with the Austin Independent School District died Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19.
  • Care.com is offering 90 days of free in-home child care for frontline workers and caregivers responding to the COVID-19 crisis, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday.
  • Bastrop County confirmed its first death from COVID-19, a 58-year-old man from Elgin.
  • The Austin History Center is documenting life during the coronavirus pandemic and is asking the community to contribute to the collection for a series called "The COVID-19 Files: Austin Responds to a Pandemic."

What's been happening statewide? Check out special coverage from KERA for North Texas, Houston Public MediaTexas Public Radio in San Antonio and Marfa Public Radio.

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