Funded by TEA grant, Edinburg CISD brings tech into students’ homes

Three Edinburg CISD fifth graders use their Chromebooks during their math class at Brewster School in northern Hidalgo County. (Courtesy photo)

EDINBURG — Fifth graders from three rural elementary schools here are now enjoying secure access to technology at home thanks to a $150,000 grant used to provide them with laptops and hotspots.

About 200 fifth graders from the elementary schools Avila, Brewster and Hargill within the Edinburg school district were selected by district officials to receive Google Chromebooks and hotspots to take home.

This was done in an effort to provide access in areas where internet coverage is not widely accessible and laptops might not fit the family’s budget.

“Students out there are very limited to internet services,” said Edinburg school district Superintendent Rene Gutierrez. “For elementary schools we provide them with technology to use while in school, but this will specifically allow the kids to take a device home with internet service… most of these kids don’t have access to internet.”

The grant was part of the Texas Education Agency’s Technology Lending grants specifically aimed at providing districts and educational agencies funds to buy technology devices to be loaned to students for access to digital instructional materials off campus, according to the grant description.

The district was approved for the award in May, but the funds were received this school year.

The devices were issued to students in October, giving the teachers freedom to expand the at-home learning options with online curriculum.

“It’s outstanding,” Nancy Yañez, a fifth-grade math teacher at Brewster School, said in a news release. “The students are thrilled, excited and don’t want to be absent. They come in with their backpacks and their laptops, and they are set to go.”

The district chose fifth graders as an added way to prepare them for their upcoming transition into middle school, Gutierrez said.

“Technology is going to be a bigger part in secondary than it is in elementary for them,” he said. “So this is going to be a good transition for them already as fifth graders having a Chromebook with internet services at home.”

This school year, TEA awarded Technology Lending grants to 148 school districts throughout the state.

This is a one-time grant, but Gutierrez said the hope is to continue applying for different grant opportunitiesl, as well as allocating district funds to expand the initiative to other students that might also struggle with access to technology at home.

“The goal is always going to be to continue enhancing our technology every year, and we always allocate money, but it’s never enough due to the many needs that we have in our district,” he said. “We would like to have every child eventually have a device in their hands so that they can do work at school or at home.”