SmartBus Launch in Leon CountySchool Bus Mobile Hot Spots Bring Free WiFi to Students in Need
As reported by Emma Wheeler of WCTV Eyewitness News, the Leon County School district launching a fantastic initiative aimed at advancing home learning programs. On April 30th, 2020, Leon Country Schools unveiled their new SmartBus Initiative. Starting today, May 1, 2020, a total of 15 school buses are being deployed to multiple locations to provide students access to free WiFi.
Florida school districts made the decision to keep schools closed for the rest of the year because of concerns regarding the coronavirus. The officials within the Leon County School Board recognize that remote learning can be difficult. Especially for students and families, without access to reliable internet connectivity.
The launch of these WiFi-enabled school buses is meant to bridge the connectivity gap. As a result, all students in the district will gain an equal opportunity to succeed.
The district hopes to eliminate what they are calling the 'digital divide.'
The Board of Education’s Darryl Jones says the district distributed 2,000 devices to enabled students to learn from home. But after doing so, they recognized that without access to internet, they could not bridge the “digital divide” with devices alone.
"For a long time now, our community has said it needed to have access so that their young people could be able to enjoy the same conveniences afforded with online technology to increase learning," Jones said.
Jones added that, despite this pandemic forcing the fast tracking of initiatives such as the SmartBus, the district intends to keep expanding access to resources beyond remote learning.
"What this SmartBus does is ensure that all students across the expanse of our district will have the same level of access through both devices and through these SmartBuses to make sure learning continues, and what will be a brand new paradigm of instruction and education in our Leon County School," Jones said.
In Collaboration with the South City Foundation
The SmartBus initiative was made possible in part due to a collaboration with the South City Foundation. Their organization hopes to help fill the needs of the people all across South City. The South City Foundation says, “We are working with community partners and stakeholders to address the Digital Divide for South City students.”
Loranne Ausley, the Foundation Chair Representative, says there are 770 district students in South City. Further, they noted that half of those students do not have internet access in their homes.
"Our whole goal is to lift this neighborhood up, and how do we do that? We do that with housing, we do that with health and wellness, and we do that with education," Ausley said. "Kids should not be hindered by the neighborhood they live in, or anything."
According to district officials, they will park the fifteen buses at locations specifically targeted to reach the students who need it most. Each bus will be on site every weekday starting today, from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
School Bus Mobile Hot Spots Enabled by MCA and USAT
Leon County Schools reached out to Mobile Communications America and its partner USAT to provide the connectivity hardware and mobile installation services they needed to equip each SmartBus. Each bus now features an Airlink MP70 router to project the School Bus Mobile Hotspots coupled with an LTMG602 antenna to boost the signal far and wide. Click below to read our case study on school bus mobile hot spots.
If your school needs a solution quickly, USAT has the equipment in stock and ready for deployment. With our partnership with MCA, we can now provide rapid installation services. We have installation teams in Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and some regions of Texas and Colorado.
USAT has broadband, secure, WiFi hot-spots and high-powered antenna assemblies designed to cover broad areas, like parks and parking lots. USAT offers solutions from top-tier providers like Sierra Wireless and Mobile Mark.