JACKSON, MI – With around 35% of students unable to afford or have access to internet service, Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Beal knew he had to do something to help with remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, Wi-Fi service is on its way to those students via the district’s school bus fleet, allowing families free internet access to connect their devices to on days they aren’t participating in face-to-face school.
JPS spent $65,000 to outfit its full fleet of 52 buses with Wi-Fi hot spots. It’s deploying 15 of them into Jackson neighborhoods with high concentrations of families that can’t afford internet access.
Beal calls this initial deployment a “proof of concept,” with the idea that JPS might need to use all of its buses if moving entirely to remote learning is required because an entire building is put into quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re doing it today to build it out to make certain that we’re ready for tomorrow,” Beal said. “A lot of this is trying to predict what might happen or what might be needed. We want to make certain that we have the ability to make sure all kids have access to be able to continue their education.”
JPS will begin sending buses out to neighborhoods surrounding downtown, with a couple east of downtown and one near the airport, the week of Oct. 12.
The district currently offers a hybrid learning format with two different student groups attending school in-person during different days of the week to avoid exposure to each other.
While the district has made a point to send students home after two days of face-to-face learning, with lessons uploaded to their devices, live online interaction is a key component students without internet access are missing out on during the rest