If you build it, they will learn: Why some schools are investing in cell towers

The Dallas Independent School District is used to providing internet service to students when they’re on school property. But it’s never had something quite like the 90-foot towers going up at a handful of schools in the district — its first foray into building its own network of cellular transmission towers.

Like a growing number of school districts across the country, spurred in part by the coronavirus pandemic, the Dallas school system has recently gotten into the cell tower business.

“It’s kind of like renting versus owning,” said Jack Kelanic, chief technology officer for the district.

The district has been renting at a steep price. It’s been buying mobile internet hotspots for 40,000 students this school year as a short-term measure to keep them connected while taking classes at home. Each one cost about $25 a month, he said, sending the district searching for a longer-term idea.