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As the school year begins online, thousands of Texas students are being left out of virtual learning

Need to stay updated on coronavirus news in Texas? Our evening roundup will help you stay on top of the day's latest updates. Sign up here. Texas schools struggled this spring to abruptly shift from teaching students in classrooms to reaching them at home. Many students fell behind in the makeshift remote learning systems cobbled together when the pandemic hit. Education officials vowed to do a better job come fall. But as the new academic year ramps up, a patchwork system will still leave many students across Texas struggling to get an education. Some will be sharing computers with three or four siblings, their districts unable to muster more than one laptop per family. Others live in rural areas beyond the reach of broadband internet. Thousands of laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots remain on back order, and the state still hasn’t finished building out the system of virtual courses it is offering school districts. Meanwhile, Texas has ordered school districts to resume grading students, taking attendance and teaching new material, pushing them to get academics as close to normal as possible after a chaotic, unfocused spring. The state standardized test is set to resume this academic year, along with ratings for schools and districts, though elementary and middle school students who fail the tests can still advance to the next grade. Many superintendents are already begging the state not to think of this as a normal year. After all, the pandemic continues to ravage some communities and threatens to cycle back through others. They know that as the virus disproportionately sickens and kills Hispanic and Black Texans, the pandemic also may result in more students from those communities getting a lower-quality education online. “Their parents want their chil “Their parents want their children to learn. Whose fault is it that their home is located where the infrastructure [for internet access] is not there?” said Jeannie Meza-Chavez, superintendent of San Elizario Independent School District, a majority-Hispanic district where 65% of students have opted to stay online. Outside of El Paso, a stone’s throw from the border with Mexico, many San Elizario families complained that the hotspots their district provided worked only sporadically. It’s common for the signal to be stronger on Mexico’s side of the border, and families struggle to find internet service providers who can reach them. “They ended the year at a disadvantage. Instead of more money thrown into assessment, throw it into the area where you can ...

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