PAINESVILLE, Ohio — Our work, schools and lives have moved further online into the virtual world, but for some that presents a big problem. However, there’s a school district that decided to get creative to help their students adjust.
They may look like ordinary school vans, but for students in the Painesville City School District, they’re a lifeline.
“When the COVID-19 started, we handed out about 1400 Chromebooks, we still had a lot of parents wanting paper because they didn’t have access to the internet,” says Heidi Fyffe, Director of State and Federal Programming for Painesville City Schools.
The classes and interactions for students in the district all moved online, but the administration realized that some students didn’t have internet access. So, if they couldn’t bring the students in to use the internet, they decide to bring the internet to the students.
“We had been approached by Verizon a year ago about putting mobile hotspots on buses, so we decided to use that technology to get access in the community,” says Director of Operations and Transportation for Painesville City Schools, Shaun Bell.
The vans roll out from 11:00AM until dark, with drivers rotating shifts and moving the vans to different locations. They’ve been able to track how much use it’s getting and changed the schedule to help the most students.
“About 24% of Painesville City students didn’t have access to the internet and about another 14-18% were using their parents data plans,” says Fyffe. “We hit the big, high target spots in our city where we have one, lot of students but also students with no access.”
Bell adds, “We knew that we could park it and kids in apartment buildings or onsite in parking lots could come and get the access they need to the internet.”
So, they may look like ordinary school vans, but things aren’t always what they seem.
“Our parents need this and want this and we are here to help,” says Fyffe. “That’s what Painesville City does, we kind of make ways to make it happen.”
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