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Planning for rapid growth

McAllen Independent School District is located in a fast-growing, diverse community just five miles from the U.S. border. The district encompasses thirty-three campuses across the Rio Grande Valley, with about 30,000 students, teachers, and employees. McAllen is one of the country’s fastest growing cities; district leaders must plan for increased sustainable capacity when implementing new digital learning initiatives.

The Challenge

MISD’s strategic Transforming Learning in the Classroom, Campus, and Community program (TLC3) provides all students and staff with either a tablet or mini tablet. As the population continues to increase, so does demand for school site bandwidth. District leaders needed a plan for site broadband expansion that was scalable to the growth of the community.

In order to build a sustainable mobile learning environment, the district needed to connect students to the Internet not just at school but also at home. School leaders sought to boost home access in order to connect directly with students’ parents, as well. Teachers and administrators utilize a cloud-based app that replaces all traditional paper communication concerning grades, homework, and school announcements. Teachers also construct digital folders for each student where parents can monitor their progress; these portfolios are synched so that they can be accessed without Internet. However, all other parent-communication applications rely on parents’ ability to log on at home– something that many families are unable to do.

The Solution

At the start of the TLC3 launch, MISD had around 200 WiFi access points. After implementing the 1:1 initiative, the district expanded to include about 2,000 points. As the number of devices and concurrent users continues to grow, the district plans to expand two to three times the current network limits, up to 60,000 access points for 100,000 devices.

The district’s plan for rapid growth is funded primarily through E-rate and School Land Board dollars. It offers substantially more bandwidth than most neighboring districts, competing instead with college networks’ capacity. While this growth ensures a robust school network, MISD is getting creative with home access. The district encourages use of public libraries and is working to provide public networks and hotspots funded by the city. While the problem hasn’t been completely solved, MISD has successfully anticipated community growth and implemented massive upgrades to keep students and families connected.

Additional Resources

From McAllen Independent School District:

From the U.S. Department of Education:

District Point of Contact

Phone: 956-618-6000