As Texas educators redesigned teaching on the fly in the spring of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the frustration level among educators and parents was high. For families there was the stress of being together 24/7 along with the day-to-day issues of schooling: homework, inconsistent internet and, in many cases, no internet at all, establishing a routine for home-school, and too many more to count.
The stories educators can tell about the challenges remote learning presented for them and their students. Talk about blended learning – schools became responsible for producing paper packets with lessons for those without internet or computers and online lessons for students with internet connectivity.
Many parents and educators can tell of slow internet where at times students might watch a screen with a spinning circle for 45 minutes waiting for the internet to connect. A lesson planned for 30 minutes might take hours to complete as the signal would fade in and out, and the child would still have three more classes to complete.
The Texas Association of Community Schools is an organization that works with small and mid-sized school districts in Texas. While our members come from all parts of the state, it is fair to say that the majority of our members are from rural communities. The pandemic has been cruel for all Texans, but especially to those in rural areas. Let me tell you why:
According to Connected Texas, approximately 300,000 rural Texas families do not have access to broadband internet connectivity which is defined as a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speed. What does that mean to the 300,000 families without broadband internet connectivity? It means that even if a school district provided a laptop or Chromebook with a hot spot to every school-aged