HOUSTON – Two Houston-area school districts handed out school supplies, laptops and hotspots to students in need Wednesday ahead of the start of the 2020-21 school year.
The Alief Independent School District will be the first Houston-area school district to begin its new school year with online learning Thursday.
On Wednesday, final preparations included handing out the last of 2,200 newly purchased laptops and wi-fi hot spots to students and parents in a drive-thru pick up at Taylor High School.
The district spent $3 million on technology to make sure all students could access the virtual classroom. In an exclusive Zoom conversation Wednesday night, Alief ISD Superintendent HD Chambers said the district had purchased more than 30,000 laptops and 16,000 internet hotspots to ensure students had what they needed to begin the school year virtually.
"We want to make it smooth and easy for them to get online and be ready for school tomorrow," said principal Mary Williams.
For students, this was the closest they would come to being on campus for now.
“It’s not that enthusiastic because we’re not going to be inside the building, it could be better. You just gotta get through it. My hope is that I come back and I get to do what I gotta do here in the school,” said Stephanie Castellon, a tenth grader.
Williams said she is committed to making sure this is not " a lost year” for her students.
With school around the corner, parents in the Aldine School Independent School District got some much-needed help Wednesday.
Several volunteers and organizations teamed up to give away free food boxes and school supplies to families in need. The giveaway started around 11 a.m. Wednesday morning, but people had already been in line since 5 a.m.
The school parking lot was packed and law enforcement agencies had to direct traffic. Parents said the giveaway was a big help.
“I’m very blessed because it’s hard now to do anything,” a parent said.
“During this pandemic, it’s a little crazy but I mean it helps out a lot there are a lot of parents out there who can’t afford school supplies for the kids,” said Javier Bautista, another parent.
Martha Escalante, the executive director of family and community engagement at Aldine ISD, said countless organizations in the area and in Harris County stepped in to help out.
“This year is different and we need to adjust to what they call the new normal, so why not make it a way that everyone will be excited? We trying to do a little thing to put a smile on our students’ faces,” Escalante said.
Around 4,000 cars wrapped around the school waiting to get the supplies and a box of food from Baker Ripley. It was a sigh of relief for some parents who’ve lost their jobs during the pandemic.
“You can imagine it’s so rewarding to see the people when they get the food and backpacks they say ‘God bless you.’ Just to hear that really fills my heart,” Escalante said.
The backpacks also included hand sanitizer, food coupons and face masks.