With students staying at home as they enter virtual classrooms instead of the physical ones they’ve always known, some parents have been concerned about internet access for their kids. In response, Cumberland County Schools offered W-Fi buses.
The buses, which are equipped with Wi-Fi routers to help students connect to their online lessons, are parked at select locations from 7:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Each morning, school bus drivers go to their designated communities and set up their Wi-Fi routers, a process that takes about four minutes for the router to become active, according to Veronica Pierce, a transportation supervisor for the school district.
Drivers have to remain in the bus while providing the Wi-Fi service. Pierce added that drivers are told that they can bring books and devices to help them pass the time. At 11 a.m. each day, drivers take their breaks to get lunch. The Wi-Fi service is reconnected at 12:30 p.m.
A few times throughout the day, the drivers will be relieved so they can use the restroom if needed.
According to Lindsay Whitley, a spokesman for Cumberland County Schools, the district has 80 buses with Wi-Fi connectivity that are deployed in various communities where access to Wi-Fi can be limited.
“We have not received direct feedback from parents through a survey, but families and community members contact us with questions or needs with the Wi-Fi buses,” Whitley said in an email.
After 4:45 p.m., if anyone has expressed a concern about internet access at night, the district has shared a hotspot, Whitley said in the email.
The range of connectivity for each bus is the size of a football field.
Some of the locations the buses deploy to each morning include but are not limited to United Management II communities, Cumberland County fire departments, Cumberland County Parks and Recreation sites, and Cumberland County library locations.
Cumberland County Schools has been able to accommodate most requests to get Wi-Fi buses into various neighborhoods.
“As we have learned about needs, we have been able to reassign or address locations with other Wi-Fi options,” Whitley said.
Students are provided access to the username and password for the bus as a mobile hotspot. If students do need a password, they can go to the bus and get it from the driver, but they cannot enter the bus because of COVID-19 restrictions.
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Staff writer Akira Kyles can be reached at [email protected]
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