Harlandale ISD installing cell towers throughout community to help students overcome digital divide

Towers will be placed around Harlandale ISD to provide internet for students

San Antonio – Harlandale Independent School District has partnered with the City of San Antonio to bring internet to hundreds of students by installing cell towers throughout the community.

“I have been in this district for almost 25 years, and we have been fighting the digital divide from year one,” said Myrna Martinez, information services director at Harlandale ISD.

Martinez is excited about a new project that will help students learn remotely.

“The students don’t have to come in our parking lots or come on our campus, they can participate on remote instruction right from their house,” Martinez said.

Through the initiative entitled “Connected Beyond the Classroom,” the City of San Antonio will place the towers around the community to provide fast-speed internet for students.

“Through the Connected Beyond the Classroom initiative that the city is managing, we get six towers in and around the district,” Martinez said. “The coverage is about 35% of the district.”

According to Martinez, families who live near the towers will receive a router where they can connect to the internet.

“The way those sites were selected, it was part of the research that UTSA and the City of San Antonio did that was based on population density and of course, the economic need,” Martinez said.

Martinez said that about 90% of the students in the district are economically disadvantaged and about 75% of HISD students are still learning remotely.

HISD parent Janie Crossland said this new project is a great investment.

“I think it’s a good investment for now, for the future of our kids,” Crossland. “I mean, just never know if we have to go back remote, at least we know that there’s an access for our kids to be able to get online and not struggle.”

Martinez said the goal is to have the towers operational and home routers distributed by the start of the fall semester.

“This year, next year was fully funded. The third-year we would pay $72,000 which is for the licenses, and the fourth year that goes up to $120,000 because we are paying for the licenses plus (the) extended warranty on the actual equipment,” Martinez said. “So, right now we don’t pay for the warranty for the first three years.”

The school board approved this partnership on March 1, 2021.

Related: A conversation with San Antonio students about school safety, the digital divide and mental health

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