As Houston ISD resumes in-person classes, officials tout effort to close digital gap

Houston ISD officials said 40% of parents are opting to continue virtual learning for the rest of 2020. (Community Impact staff)
Houston ISD officials said 40% of parents are opting to continue virtual learning for the rest of 2020. (Community Impact staff)

Houston ISD officials said 40% of parents are opting to continue virtual learning for the rest of 2020. (Community Impact staff)

While Houston ISD students returned to in-person classes Oct. 19 for the first time since before spring break, administrators took the opportunity to celebrate the efforts made to close the district's digital divide.

"This is truly a historic and transformational accomplishment in our district," interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said at a press conference at Highland Heights Elementary School marking the return of in-person classes.

The district has distributed 110,000 devices, and every student in need has received a device, she said. Credit was shared with local officials as well as the Moody Foundation, which gave HISD $1 million to help purchase devices.

At Highland Heights, located near the Acres Homes community, some 95% of students lacked technology access, principal John Flowers said, but that is no longer the case.

"We have the resources now where we can deliver very effective instruction to each one of our students," he said. "All of their needs have been met."


In addition to technology support, administrators said campuses are prepared for the return of students to campus with new protocols, including health screenings for staff, limited bus capacity and limited movement throughout the school day, virtual meetings and supplies of PPE and hand washing.

With over 90% of parents responding, about 40% opted to send their children back to school in-person, but data shows that individual campus populations vary widely.

The district has also staffed a school nurse at all but five campuses, Lathan said.

"All but five campuses have a dedicated nurse. ... That’s major," she said.

The remaining five will share a centralized health administrator until nurses can be hired.


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