In Garland ISD, some families struggle with internet connections for online classes

Something strange is happening with the hot spot that Garland ISD’s Shorehaven Elementary loaned 11-year-old Miranda.

When she connects to Zoom for live classes, the internet signal is turned off. But when Zoom turns off, the Wi-Fi comes back and she can do her homework without any problem, said Karina Cossío, the mother of Miranda and 16-month-old twins.

This case illustrates the difficulties many North Texas families face in connecting to virtual classes.

“We have already asked the teachers and they say that other hot spots are fine, that they don’t know what’s going on. They just tell me: turn it on and off, and we already did it but it doesn’t work,“ Cossío said.

Her voice sounded agitated. The breadwinner of the house, she was leaving home and about to drive to work. Miranda goes with her because otherwise she isn’t able to enter her classes. Cossío isn’t sending her to school in person because of concerns about COVID-19.

Raul Rodriguez mists the library at Daugherty Elementary School in Garland to disinfect it.

”I pass a signal from my cellphone,” said Cossío, who works as an independent beauty stylist and on some days has a permanent contract with an aesthetician in Garland.

In the salon, the girl connects to the company’s WiFi. Otherwise, the student enters Zoom from her mother’s car or from wherever the family is at that moment.

Cossío said that fortunately her daughter is a student who does homework without having to be reminded. She wanted to get internet installed at home but said it’s too expensive.

An exterior view of Garland High School in Garland, Texas, Friday, June 26, 2020.

“Everyone has told me it’s $80,” she said. “I’m alone with the children and I can’t.”

She pays $60 a month for her cellphone with unlimited internet data service, but on the 20th of the month, the signal stops working well.

Friends told her AT&T offers a $10 a month service to families in her situation, and she said will find a time to call.

Data from Garland ISD indicates that the district has delivered 10,300 Wi-Fi hot spots to families for the new school year. The devices, provided by The 1 Million Project Foundation, are equipped with 10 GB of high-speed data per month and work with the network of the cellular company Sprint.

Garland ISD has an enrollment of 55,000 students at 72 campuses, the second largest in Dallas County after Dallas ISD, which this cycle has just under 150,000 students.

”If an access point has low signal strength or reduced data rates, video conferencing systems like Zoom may not connect because they cannot meet the minimum system bandwidth and data rate requirements,” Garland ISD said in a prepared statement. District officials have purchased an additional 3,000 hot spots through T-Mobile and expect to receive them in November.

If a family experiences failures, the district said they should call technical support at 844-309-1680 between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

An exterior view of Garland High School in Garland, Texas, Friday, June 26, 2020.

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