Austin Public Library to Offer Laptops and Hotspots for Students
By Bismarck D. Andino
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — At the beginning of the school year, Maura Cerecedo had only one computer for her three children.
Cerecedo couldn’t afford to buy more because she and her husband were laid off from work. She borrowed two laptops from the school, but online learning hasn’t been easy.
“The kids in class sometimes have so much trouble, they have to log in, log off, and log in back again,” Cerecedo said. “Sometimes they’re not able to get back to class.”
Her family is not alone.
Ashley Trejo Benitez, a high school senior, has had trouble with sharing spotty WiFi with her siblings.
“My mom has her office downstairs, so everyone is using the computers and the WiFi,” Trejo Benitez said.
“My brothers were using an iPad and a computer, so I had a lot of trouble logging in to all my classes.”
These instances aren’t isolated. They are part a digital divide in low-income households–intensified by the pandemic.
According to Austin ISD student data, more than half of the students in the district are considered economically disadvantaged. Reports cards show more students received at least one F in the first nine weeks of the 2020-21 school year than in the same period of the previous academic year.
Recognizing this divide, the Austin City Council approved a grant of almost $50,000 for public libraries to expand their resources to low-income students.
The new program, which will begin later this month, plans to give underserved students access to hot spots and laptops.
Austin Public Library director Roosevelt Weeks said the library also received an additional $25,000 from donors and he is in the process of buying the equipment, which will be distributed to 20 library locations.
“We’re working with a few [public] schools, charter schools, and ISD to figure out what their needs are,” Weeks said.
Students will be able to access these resources with their library card. The goal is to make getting access as easy as checking out a book.
“We’re looking to do it for a semester-long use, and not just a normal three-weeks timeframe,” Weeks said.
Cerecedo said she is happy that other families like hers will be able to benefit from additional technology, but learning remotely will still have its struggles.
“It’s been a hassle for me sometimes because I have to jump from one kid to another, and pretty much I don’t have a break throughout the day,” she said.