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Port Arthur ISD purchasing 4,000 tablets to bridge virtual learning gap

Port Arthur Independent School District officials approved a $960,000 purchase of 4,000 tablets for students district-wide with internet options from T-Mobile.

The move came at Thursday night’s school board meeting and followed the District’s decision the day before to start students virtually for the first four weeks of school.

The purchase will allow all students in the district to receive a device for virtual learning.

School board president Brandon Bartie said it’s an important procurement.

“We started virtual and remote learning in March when we left the first time,” he said. “At the time, we weren’t equipped to handle it. Since then, as weeks and months passed by, our technology department and directors were able to find software that will allow us to continue virtual learning for our kids.”

Bartie said he has received a lot of mixed feelings from parents on the decision to start school from home.

“Some want to have their kids do virtual learning year round. Others’ only option is to send their kids to school,” he said. “We’ve been trying to put things into place for kids that want to come to school, for those that have to come back to school.”

Bartie said the district’s focus is on installing every safety measure possible, while also providing options for parents.

“Every safety measure that you can think of, the board has asked the question,” he said. “I feel pretty confident on the answers, but the biggest thing right now is safety. We are not the type of district to tell parents they have to send their kids to school. We are going to give the parents as many options as possible.”

Parents who choose to continue remote instruction past the Sept. 11 transition date will be allowed to keep the devices for school use.

All devices are Internet and Wi-Fi ready.

“All they have to do is get the device, log on and do their schoolwork,” Bartie said. “I think this is the new future of education. We’ll start to see more kids learning from home. This is something everyone is going to get used to, and it’s good to be prepared.”

Bartie asks students, parents and the community to continue monitoring emails and social media sites for the latest up-to-date information.

“We adapt to everything here in Port Arthur,” he said. “We look at it and today might be something, but tomorrow might be something different. If change comes, we will meet it head on until then. Stay in tune. Stay in touch. We want to keep our community abreast on what’s going on.”

In order to receive am on-line learning device, students must be registered by July 31.

The online registration support line will be available Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 409-989-6154.