Leeds, Ala. (WBRC) - Leeds City School leaders are working to turn the districts fleet of 20 buses into mobile hot spots ahead of the fall.
The district already has five buses with the specialized equipment and are looking at device options to convert the other 15. School leaders say they have been looking into a concept like this for some time. The goal was to equip the buses so that students headed to school or student athletes headed to games would have access while they wait to get to their destination.
Now, with the uncertainty of how COVID-19 could impact the upcoming school year, the district wants to get the equipment installed more quickly. The district is offering both in person and virtual learning for the fall and this is an added measure to get ready.
“We don’t want to have any student do without because of financial disadvantage or even the disadvantage of some poor telecommunications company,” said Andrew Jackson, Supervisor of Instructional Technology.
School leaders say of the 2,052 students enrolled about 15-20 percent of students don’t have access to reliable internet. The district is using survey data collected from parents to determine how many buses need to be parked in the community to provide internet access.
“Starting next week, all our principals are going to send out a survey to parents to find out how many students are predicted to do virtual learning. So, once we get that exact number we can adjust our plan and park some buses that may not be on the routes,” said Lee Gibson, Transportation Director.
The devices cost about $1,000 each. The five purchased so far were purchased by the district along with donations from Millennial Bank in Leeds. The district plans to use CARES Act money to do the other fifteen buses, but its still waiting on the distribution of money.
Leaders say if they can’t get all the buses equipped by the fall, they have done other things to boost WiFi for students. The have boosted WiFi connects at schools so that students can park in the parking lot of their school and get access to the internet.