School bus Wifi provides necessary resource for students’ education

Students can spend a lot of time on buses, whether commuting between their homes and school daily or taking part in school-sponsored activities outside the area.

As internet access becomes integral to completing schoolwork, spending hours on a bus without access to the internet can lead to late nights at home completing that work. To address this issue, the Southwest Dubois County School Corporation is adding Wifi to the majority of its fleet of buses. Beginning this week, 16 corporation buses will provide WiFi with access to the school corporation’s filtered internet.

The initiative began as a way to address the lack of internet access among the corporation’s students, which became readily apparent when in-person learning wasn’t available during the early stage of the pandemic. As students and their families huddled around areas with publicly accessible WiFi, like the Huntingburg Public Library, Huntingburg City Park and Fourth Street, the corporation began taking steps to create more internet access points.

Early on, this took the form of mobile hotspots available to be checked out. But these devices could only support a couple of students at a time. The idea to add WiFi to buses began to coalesce around the plan to park the buses in public spaces to provide access at a larger scale as the closure progressed. Then, as schools slowly returned to normal, Southwest continued to explore adding WiFi to buses.

According to Katy Beck, the corporation’s Instructional Technology Director, the addition meets the student’s needs in a couple of ways. Students that take part in classes at other schools or who are enrolled in special courses offered off-campus will be able to do their work while on the bus to these locations. Students like those enrolled in the 4T Academy at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant in Princeton. “Those students are on the bus for about an hour each way,” she explained. “So, this provides them access to be able to complete their homework while traveling to and from Princeton.”

This will also assist the corporation’s many student-athletes as well.

“We also wanted to make sure that we give students opportunities to work on their homework when they’re traveling to athletic events after school,” Beck said.

It also allows students with longer commutes between school and home to be able to work on their homework.

And, if it ever becomes necessary for students to return to virtual learning, the corporation could park the buses in public spaces to create large hotspots in the district.

“This provides opportunities for learning for all of our kids,” Beck said.

While some students have unlimited internet access through their personal cell phone plans, many students do not have the same luxury. If the school corporation is using online instruction to teach its students, providing access for all students is essential. The bus WiFi will help meet that need, according to Beck.