Katy ISD issues more than 12K devices to students and staff

By R. Hans Miller | Times Senior Reporter
Posted 4/27/20

Katy ISD has distributed 550 devices to students April 22 to facilitate online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The issuance of the devices last week brings 11,950 into students hands and about …

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Katy ISD issues more than 12K devices to students and staff

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Katy ISD has distributed 550 devices to students April 22 to facilitate online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The issuance of the devices last week brings 11,950 into students hands and about 2,900 devices to teachers to ensure education can continue into summer, Katy ISD Director of Instructional Technology Darlene Rankin said.

“(We’re) currently issuing iPad devices up to First grade. Second through Twelfth (graders) are using a Chromebook,” Rankin said.

Rankin said the school has not had to spend additional money on the devices for multiple reasons. The district had already ramped up its purchases of devices to meet the needs of its campuses, she said. That created a situation where enough devices were available to meet the day-to-day needs of classroom education. However, once need increased because of COVID-19 forcing the district to move to virtual classrooms, her IT team was able to repair or repurpose devices at campuses so they could be issued to support online education, she said.

“We’ve devoted more of our funds to mobile devices (prior to the new coronavirus issue), be it iPads or Chromebooks,” Rankin said.

The 550 devices were distributed at the district’s Education Support Complex located at 6301 S. Stadium Lane in downtown Katy, according to a Katy ISD press release. Rankin said the devices had been collected from campuses, verified to be in working order by one of the district’s IT staff, set up for online learning, sanitized to be certain the devices wouldn’t inadvertently cause the spread of COVID-19 and issued to their new users by being placed in the trunks of cars in a drive-thru line.

All of the devices can access MyKatyCloud, the virtual environment for Katy’s online classrooms, as well as Canvas, Discovery Education, BrainPop, and the other essential websites and software for students to learn through, Rankin said.

Each device is set up to ensure safety, Rankin said. The devices are set up to establish a sandbox learning environment that limits student access to the rest of the internet, she said. As a result, students using a school-issued device can only look at content and websites prescreened by district officials such as teachers and librarians, Rankin said.

“If the students checked out a Katy ISD device then they’re still running through the same content filters that they would if they were on campus,” Rankin said.

Rankin said even though the on-campus libraries are closed, students are continuing to check out books digitally since the COVID-19 closure began, so KISD’s administration is pleased to see children continuing to read.

“(Each) library has a lot of online books,” Rankin said. “Eighteen-thousand e-books have been checked out with an average of 56 minutes of reading time.

Additional analytics are available to teachers and administrators so they can follow up with students who are not submitting assignments or have not logged into virtual learning, Rankin said. This allows the district to reach out to students and parents to find out what resource is missing.

Rankin said students and parents have support if they need it through the District’s website, where a support form allows parents to submit questions and get personalized assistance. To access the online support form, parents can visit www.katyisd.org. Once on the website, they can select “Parent Tech Help” from the “Parents” dropdown menu. The support form is linked at the bottom of the resulting page. Rankin said additional staff have been allocated to respond to support requests in order to ensure timely assistance.

The form can also be used if parents still need to obtain a device for their child, Rankin said.

“We have classroom technology designers and we have an amazing knowledge base. We knew in the latter half of our spring break – around (March 12 or March 13) – that we were going in this direction so we started putting additional supports in place,” Rankin said.  

The devices will remain in students’ possession through the end of the semester if the student does not need to attend summer school, Rankin said. Students that need to keep their devices to participate in classes over the summer school term will keep their devices, she said.

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