Dallas ISD Moving Ahead on Internet Connectivity Initiative

As local and state governments begin to look at whether reopening the economy was the right decision, they’re also beginning to look ahead to how the pandemic will impact Dallas even beyond summer. Want to stay informed? We have today’s bullet points.

  • Dallas ISD looking at Fall options and moving ahead on internet connectivity initiative
  • City of Dallas to close out application acceptance for rental assistance today
  • George W. Bush calls for the country to unite
  • North Texas Giving Tuesday will respond to COVID-19

Dallas ISD Looking at Fall Options, and Moving Ahead on Internet Connectivity Initiative

As we reported last week, Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa is not at all confident that school will return this fall as normal – but he clarified a little more about what the district is looking at in a Monday morning press conference.

“Right now, we don’t know what we don’t know,” he said of the virus and what the landscape will look like come August. But he did know that it was “highly doubtful” that students and teachers would come back to school like normal. He was equally sure that the current model of all-distance learning was unsustainable for an entire school year.

Instead, the district is looking at three scenarios:

  • All schools open Aug. 17 under normal conditions for in-school learning
  • All students continue with the current at-home learning model
  • The district opens with a blended model that combines some form of in-school and at-home learning

In two weeks, district officials will likely have a better idea of what will happen, but he said there are several scenarios within that “Plan C” that they are considering, too. He also knows that summer school will likely need to be online only. He also said that students will continue to have hot-spots and technology, as well as access to at-home learning materials, throughout the summer.

But a “hybrid opening,” is looking likely. That may look more like what Hinojosa described to the Washington Post, but he also said that the district is looking at variations of the model depending on the age range of the students being served – because many parents cannot get back to work without a five-day school model.

For older students requiring less supervision from parents, it may look like an alternating two-day schedule for in-person learning, and online learning the rest of the time. For elementary students, attendance may be daily, but students may see themselves reporting to a different school come fall.

“If we had all of our elementary schools and spread them out in multiple buildings, so at least we had that covered for parents that have to go to work,” Hinojosa said. “Most of our parents are hourly. They can’t work remotely, we have to take that into consideration.”

Any decision made, Hinojosa stressed, would factor in advice from state and local officials, as well as a clear plan on enforcing social distancing in classrooms, lunchrooms, and buses, as well as proper cleaning, screening of students, and the use of masks (and how to provide them to students and teachers) and other personal protective equipment.

Hinojosa said the district was also moving ahead on an internet connectivity initiative that will have him working with state and local officials to improve access across the city. While hot spots are working for now, he’d much rather, he said, see permanent access improve across the city, because it has far-reaching implications.

“Having broadband is not a luxury. It is a necessity,” he said.

Dallas ranks number six in the country – and number one in Texas – of urban cities with families without fixed Internet access. The pandemic has shown just how vital access to broadband internet is, Hinojosa said, because it’s powering job applications, unemployment assistance, seeing a doctor through telemedicine, and even getting news.

The district hopes to work with local and state officials to utilize federal stimulus money, public-private partnerships, and district reserve funds to improve connectivity. He’s also been tapped to lead a statewide effort by Texas Education Agency commissioner Mike Morath.

“We will relentlessly pursue this until we have an answer,” Hinojosa said. “Internet connectivity should join water, electricity, gas, and wastewater as an essential service.”

City of Dallas To Close Out Application Acceptance for Rental Assistance Today

Despite hiccups that left many applicants getting error messages, the City of Dallas got nearly 1,000 applications within the first 15 minutes of accepting applications for its coronavirus mortgage and rental assistance program Monday morning.

By the end of the day, there were more than 16,000 applications.

The $13.7 million is first come, first served. By Monday evening, the city had announced that the program was nearing capacity, and that applications would only be accepted through 11 a.m. today.

For those who qualify and are accepted, the program will pay a maximum of $1,500 a month to people who had limited incomes prior to the pandemic and had even further reduced incomes because of COVID-19 thanks to job loss or sickness. The funds are paid directly to the mortgage holders or landlords.

Application pre-screening is done on the phone by calling 469-749-6500, or at the online portal.

George W. Bush Calls for Country to Unite

Preston Hollow (and SMU library having) resident George W. Bush, who also just happens to be a former president, called on Americans to unite to help the country during the pandemic.

He reminded viewers of his three-minute video of how the country banded together post-911.

“Let’s remember that the suffering we experience as a nation does not fall evenly,” he said. “In the days to come, it will be especially important to care in practical ways for the elderly, the ill, and the unemployed.”

He is also the subject of the latest PBS American Experience series of presidential biographies. You can view that here.

North Texas Giving Tuesday Will Respond to COVID-19

You can catch a few live events today, too:

  • 10 a.m. The Arts Foundation of St. Andrews Benefit Concert on Facebook Live, benefiting The Storehouse of Collin County, featuring Imperial Brass, Chris Widomski, Ladies Liberty Show Troupe, Yumiko Endo Schlaffer, Kaylyn Wilson, Noah Bales, Michael Agnew, Megan Koch, Lucik Aprahamian, Martha Walvoord, and Krista Miller. It will broadcast here.
  • 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. and 3:30-5 p.m. Encouraging Notes and Card Shower: a family-friendly virtual event benefiting The Senior Source where volunteers create homemade cards and notes of encouragement to delight the residents and staff at a senior living facility. Participants will gather via GoToMeeting.
  • 11 a.m.- 7 p.m.  Arlington Tomorrow Foundation and Levitt Pavilion’s Live Stream Concert, featuring the Brad Russell Band at 11 a.m., September Moon at 1 p.m., Steve Helms at 4 p.m., Latin Express at 5:30 p.m., and Sara Hickman at 7 p.m. The concerts will be live-streamed on the Levitt Pavilion’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
  • 6:30 p.m. The Concert for North Texas Giving Tuesday Now, partnering with the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, the Communities Foundation of Texas, the Dallas Cowboys, and Caroline Kraddick, CBS 11 will present a living room concert with Josh AbbottRyan CabreraJaret Reddick of Bowling for Soup; American Idol’s Jason Castro and Michael CastroCaroline KraddickLeighton Fields, and Abraham Alexander. 


Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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