All WISD high school students receive laptops; district approaches 1:1 technology

Contribution from WISD

Waxahachie ISD high school students have received a new tool to help them be successful in a 21st-century learning environment. Reliable and accessible technology is a crucial part of learning, particularly during a pandemic, and Waxahachie ISD continues to invest in technology resources for students.

WHS students receive laptops from the district.

The district issued Dell laptops to every Waxahachie High School student as part of Operation Connectivity, a state program that subsidized half of the cost through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Waxahachie Global High students are next in line for the laptop rollout.

When the pandemic initially hit, the state surveyed districts to understand the technological needs for a virtual environment. It was evident that more devices and hotspots were necessary for Waxahachie ISD students.

With the funds made available through Operation Connectivity, WISD procured 3,100 Dell laptops, 500 iPads, 417 Verizon hotspots (includes one year of data), and 200 Chromebooks.

“The laptops received by the district are enough to provide every student at WHS and Global with a device,” explained Chief Financial Officer Ryan Kahlden. “Junior high through third-grade will have Chromebooks, including a number of additional Chromebooks able to be handed down from the high school campuses, and pre-K through second have iPads.”

Kahlden noted the district already had approximately 6,000 Chromebooks, which would now almost categorize Waxahachie ISD as a one-to-one district, meaning a device would be available for every student in the district to support the curriculum at their grade level.

“If you want to use your own device, you’re more than welcome to,” Kahlden noted. “If not, or if you don’t have a device, parents can give permission for students to receive a device from the district.”

Waxahachie High senior Landon Davis checked out his device on Jan. 7. Even though he already utilized his at-home laptop for schoolwork, he noted that the new laptop "will make it a lot easier to do my work in school because a lot of the time we have to use the Chromebook cart.”

Before, Davis never brought his personal computer to school but said his new district-issued laptop will most likely accompany him at school every day.

Another senior, Silas Cagle, said a lot of his coursework is completed on a laptop. He agreed that having a laptop dedicated to school would be beneficial because it will “help me keep track of my schoolwork.”

Melissa Huskisson, a WHS English teacher, said her department adopted a new online textbook this year for English students, while AP English students constantly utilize online resources. Huskisson noted her AP students utilize technology almost daily in the classroom, whether with their own laptops, Chromebooks reserved from the library, or even smartphones.

“The students having their own laptops rather than us having to reserve Chromebooks will make it a lot easier on them,” Huskisson emphasized.

WHS librarian Megan Mills checks out devices to students and classes regularly and understands the need for each student to have reliable technology. She noted that Operation Connectivity creates a “level playing field” for high school students.

Mills noted that devices from the library were heavily relied on by students required to quarantine, as well as by in-person students for classroom assignments and testing.

WHS Principal Tonya Harris is confident that the 1:1 technology initiative will bring instruction to the next level and prepare students for life after high school. Harris also noted that every student being equipped with technology allows teachers to create more engaging lessons using technology resources.

“In a COVID world, a laptop does allow a student to have access to all the educational opportunities that a student on campus would have,” Harris added.

If a high school student has not yet received a device, that student should communicate with his or her English teacher to have a parent complete a form for them. All devices are to be checked back in before students are dismissed for the summer.