WiFi Hotspots on School Buses for 24/7 Web Access

IMAGE CREDIT: (DAVID JOLES/STARTRIBUNE)

Excerpts from an The Journal.com article

School buses used to serve one purpose: getting students to and from school. But driven by a mandate to provide Internet connectivity to all students, some creative districts have deployed mobile wireless technology to transform their buses into moving WiFi zones, stationary hotspots or both.

Among the students at Coachella Valley Unified School District (CA), 24/7 Web access is not a given. According to Superintendent Darryl Adams, “Only about 60 percent of the student population has Internet access at home.” To solve the problem, he put his own spin on the concept of mobile learning. “They’re putting WiFi in cars now,” he said, “so I thought, ‘Why not put it on a school bus?’ ”

CVUSD rolled out its WiFi-enabled school bus initiative in October, using three buses to provide WiFi to students on their way back and forth to school (and for field trips and sporting events). The buses are also “parked” overnight in neighborhoods where Internet access is not otherwise available. Adams said that trailer parks and tribal reservations were among the district’s first choices as locations to provide WiFi via its buses.

The district invested in its rolling hotspots not just to allow students to work on their way to and from school, but also to level the playing field with students from more affluent homes. With nearly half of its student population unable to access the Internet while at home, Adams felt that CVUSD pupils were at a disadvantage in today’s tech-centric world. “I went in and talked to the school board about this and about how we really needed a way to get everyone connected,” Adams said. “In the 21st century, if you don’t have access to information you’re going to be at a disadvantage. Access denied is education denied.”

Adams said the pilot has gone so well that the district now plans to roll out WiFi service to 97 more buses.

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