Parents, teachers and advocates worry online-only lesson plans could widen the digital divide and exacerbate educational equity issues in Austin Independent School District. To try to prevent that, the district, which has roughly 81,000 students, is distributing Wi-Fi hotspots, laptops and tablets.
Here's a step-by-step guide for parents and guardians on how to get them.
Not all students require a laptop. Austin ISD says pre-K through second-grade students will need an iPad with at least 32 gigabytes of storage. Students from grades 3 through 12 will need a laptop for the upcoming school year.
If your student has a laptop already, make sure it meets the specifications and has the full list of programs below, which the district says are crucial for remote learning:
- Macintosh or Windows computer
- Operating system: Windows 10 or Mac OS X
- Hard drive: 16GB (minimal needed; students should use their Austin ISD Google drive for file storage)
- Memory: 4GB RAM
- Processor: i3 Intel processor (8th generation) or similar (i.e., AMD)
- The latest version of Java
- The latest version of QuickTime
- The latest version of Adobe Reader
- Microphone (built-in is sufficient)
- A webcam for both video conferences and taking images of homework (built-in is sufficient)
- The latest version of Google Chrome
Most of the programs, hardware and specifications are standard on laptops, and AISD says its Chromebooks meet these minimum requirements.
As far as access to internet, the district recommends a broadband internet speed that can handle video-based classes. AISD points out that the video-conference platform Zoom recommends a minimum download speed of 1 megabyte per second. Keep in mind, this is well below the FCC standard for students, which ranges from 5 to 25 megabytes per second. Having said that, the more devices in a household, the more demand is put on your bandwidth.
AISD says it will distribute Wi-Fi hotspots with higher bandwidth capability to households with more than one student, but the hotspots are in limited supply.
Parents or guardians who need laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots or iPads have three options to request devices.
- Fill out a form at one of the district's two pickup and drop-off sites: AISD Performing Arts Center at 1500 Barbara Jordan Boulevard or Crockett High School at 5601 Menchaca Rd.
- If you have access to the internet, log in to the district's Parent Cloud. If you don't have an account, there are step-by-step instructions in both Spanish and English to set one up. From there, you'll have to search "technology distribution" to find the form to request a laptop or iPad.
- You can also call the school. Find a complete directory of AISD schools here.
There are specific dates and locations for picking up devices. For now, laptops can be picked up only at Crockett High School and the Performing Arts Center from Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
iPads can be picked up at certain elementary schools, but dates, times and locations vary.
AISD requires parents or guardians picking up devices to have students' ID or ID number or a QR code that can be printed from the Parent Cloud.
The district says it currently has limited Wi-Fi hotspots available. Parents or guardians looking for a Wi-Fi hotspot should request one on the Parent Cloud.
The district has also partnered with Cap Metro to provide Wi-Fi at certain sites through the beginning of the school year, though hours will be scaled back to 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. after Sept. 8.
If you need a device to be delivered, make sure you indicate that on your request. If you have additional questions, call the district's assistance line at 512-414-9187.
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