The Democratic Candidate Forum for TX-23 is hosted at KLRN.
The partnership to air educational programming to antenna-only homes could fill an important gap, a KLRN-TV exec says. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

With Texas’ more than 5 million public school students at home for the duration of the school year, the state’s education agency is hoping that a return to basics will help bridge gaps in remote learning. That’s why Texas Education Agency officials announced a partnership with the state’s 10 public broadcasting stations to air age-appropriate educational programming in lieu of regularly scheduled content on weekdays.

Local PBS stations, including San Antonio’s KLRN, are free to anyone with a television antenna. Including homes that have PBS in their cable, satellite, or streaming lineups, the stations reach 96 percent of Texas’ students. Each station will air shows aimed at three different age groups: students in Pre-K through third grade, fourth through eighth, and high school.

Interactive lessons and activities that correspond with the programming are available for student or teacher use.

This partnership could fill an important hole left by the digital divide, said KLRN’s Vice President of Education Melissa Galvan. Not every home has access to high-quality internet or devices, but most have a television with basic channels, including KLRN, she said.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen between now and the fall so this could be an outlet for school districts to reach those families who don’t have internet,” Galvan said.

All the programming and lessons available through PBS and the affiliate stations are aligned to Texas learning standards broken down by grade level and aired during school hours. For the week of April 20, KLRN’s schedule has three hours of educational programming each day for those in grades 3-12 and an additional four hours daily for middle and high school students.

This week, KLRN aired shows including “Wild Kratts,” “Odd Squad,” and “Cyberchase” for students in grades 3-5. The same day, the station aired “NOVA” and “The Roosevelts” for students in grades 6-12. The interactive lessons and activities created for the TEA partnership complement the programming.

“Teachers could easily say, ‘I need you to watch this video on a planet,’ and it could be the videos we all watched [back] when we were in school, which was a boring professor up there speaking in monotone, pointing at a chart,” said Katrina Kehoe, KLRN’s vice president of communications and marketing. “What we’re saying is watch this episode of ‘NOVA’ on Jupiter, and we’re going to take you there and show you about it and teach you about it. That’s interesting not only to a student but also to a family.”

Students could also learn about the 1937 Hindenburg explosion or President John Adams on an episode of “History Detectives” or the the “big bang” that rocked the American music scene in 1920s Tennessee on “American Epic.”

KLRN is also distributing “learn-at-home” bags at the school districts’ meal distribution sites, Galvan said. 

The public station worked with school district family engagement specialists to provide materials for activities and resources in both Spanish and English. So far, KLRN has distributed 1,200 bags in San Antonio and plans to give away another 1,000 in the coming weeks.

Are you an educator or do you have a student in your home who now has to learn remotely?

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.