school bus

Arizona district uses school buses as wifi hotspots to bring internet to students

April 6, 2020
The Sunnyside district sends buses to parking lots throughout the community to connect with students who don't have home internet access.

An Arizona school district is using its buses as wifi hotspots to give students without home internet access a greater opportunity to get online and keep up with their school work.

The Arizona Republic reports that the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson is deploying about two dozen of its buses to park in empty  lots around the community from 7:30 a.m.-10 a.m. The buses bring grab-and-go meals to students, and they are equipped with wireless internet capabilities that enable students to connect to the internet while they're near the bus to check for assignments and communicate with teachers.

"I think it has positioned us well to continue to provide education to a community that needs it the most," says Sunnyside Superintendent Steve Holmes.

The district has about 16,000 students unable to attend school because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many students are living in poverty and do not have home internet access. Sunnyside has activated internet in every school's parking lot, but not every student can walk to a nearby school.

The students are spread out when they approach a bus to maintain social distancing protocols. 

Holmes says Sunnyside was ready to move fast in launching online learning because it had already invested a lot of money in getting a laptop for every student in grades four to 12. The district's buses already had wireless internet so that students on long bus rides could do their school work more easily

Districts across Arizona are grappling with the question of how to get students online. Some don't have internet. Some don't have devices. Working parents are sharing devices with their kids, some splitting time on one computer among several family members.

Some districts are loaning laptops and hotspots to students. But the devices are in short supply.

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