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Three local school districts address ‘connectivity concerns:’ how they’ll provide tech and wifi to students this year

All three of our local school districts have decided to begin the new school year remotely with distance learning from home. 

News Channel 3’s Madison Weil spoke with the districts to learn how they plan to ensure students will be connected and have the technology they need for success. 

Each district has a unique plan to address concerns. 

Palm Springs Unified School District says 98% of their students now have digital devices at home. The vast majority have chromebooks but not all have wifi. To solve that problem, PSUSD schools are now providing mobile hotspots to any student in need. 

“This one is 5G ready...this one is 4G,” explained William Carr, Director of Educational Technology & Information Systems for PSUSD, showing Weil the hotspot options. 

PSUSD mother Alicia Gamboa and her daughter Gema have been using one of those mobile hotspots for distance learning. “It’s helpful because that way we don’t have an extra bill for a hot spot,” said Gamboa. 

If any student or parent has a tech question or issue, they can simply come to one of PSUSD’s mobile “tech depots:” help centers set up outside in a different school location most week days at a designated time. 

At these tech depots, families can also get any PSUSD device repaired or replaced. “We came here to get her Chromebook seen...it’s been having some problems,” added Gamboa. 

Teachers can also stop by if they need help. “It’s super useful. We very much appreciate all they do,” said Araceli Wagner, 2nd grade teacher, PSUSD. 

The district is able to monitor the hot spot usage and how often students show up for virtual classes.

Over at Desert Sands Unified School District, they have a similar policy in place. 

“Those that didn’t have good wifi service...they figured out a way to bring that to them,” said Stephanie Minor, a DSUSD parent. 

The district says any family in need can check out a mobile hotspot and only their Chromebook will connect. 

Pre-pandemic, the district had already built their own data network to help families with connectivity challenges.

“We retrofitted old microwave towers that were on our school buildings and put LTE network equipment...that works like a cellular network,” explained Kelly May-Vollmar, Assistant Superintendent Educational Services, DSUSD. 

The district says students in 2nd-12th grade have chromebooks. And new this year due to the pandemic, kindergarten through 1st graders will have take-home tablets. 

“All of our students kindergarten through 12th will have devices wherever they’re at,” added May-Vollmar. 

As for Coachella Valley Unified School District, each student will be sent home with an iPad. Although some, still need to be updated, according to the district. 

CVUSD superintendent Maria Gandera says they’ll also be providing wifi on school buses and park them in neighborhoods that need it the most. Families living close by will able to connect. 

She says this service will be “available during school hours so students can be online to receive instruction from their teachers and access their work.” 

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Madison Weil

Madison Weil joined the KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 News Team in June 2018. Learn more about Madison here.

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