HOUSTON - As some Houston ISD schools go back to virtual learning because of COVID-19 positive or presumed cases, a local business is stepping up to help students.
Sophia Im is the store manager at Shipley's Do-Nuts at 9203 South Main Street in southwest Houston. After weeks of careful planning, she converted part of the store into space for students to have safe and free access to Wi-Fi and laptops.
"All the chairs here are spaced eight feet apart. Recommended is 4 [feet] with plexiglass but we just want to make it even safer," Im said pointing to the small tables and chairs divided by plexiglass.
Stations with large bottles of hand sanitizer and containers of disinfecting wipes are placed around the dining area.
"We have UV lighting in the HVAC to make it safer as well as HEPA filters," Im added.
She says she has three children in HISD schools and they told her some of their peers were not able to access learning because of the digital divide.
"I just saw a lot of kids that were struggling with finding wifi or finding a laptop to use," Im noted.
When Im saw an image of two little girls in California using the Wi-Fi outside a Taco Bell restaurant to do their school work, she said she decided to convert her store into a safe space for learning.
Im credits her parents for instilling in her the importance of education.
"They were refugees from Cambodia. Education was very hard. If you were educated, you were killed," she said referring the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s. "But when they came here, my mom, she said whatever you do get your education because that's the one thing that no one can ever take away from you."
Im's store can accommodate 20 students or, as she calls them, Sprinkle Scholars.
Anyone who wants to come needs to reserve their spot by texting (832) 567-5885, a parent must complete a form and must agree to have their child be temperature checked. She says they also must wear a mask and she'll provide one, if needed.
"There's no catch at all. If you need it, just come because we really want to be able to help as many students as possible," Im said.
She's urging students "Do-nut stop learning! We don't want a lack of laptop or Wi-Fi to stop you," she concluded.
Anyone who prefers not to come in the store, can also access the Wi-Fi from the parking lot.