NORTH LOGAN – Students from Region 11 are traveling all over Utah this week to participate in playoff games in baseball, softball, boys soccer, track and tennis. Next week will involve students who participate in boys and girls lacrosse. Even though some of these students have to travel long distances and miss time in their schools, they don’t have to miss time from their classes. The Cache County School District, in association with the Logan City School District, has equipped 10 activity busses with WiFi so students can continue to complete coursework while their teams travel long distances.
“The pandemic opened our eyes to some of the potential issues we might have to address,” says Cache County School District General Transportation Manager Theo Hepworth in a release. The district used money from a state grant to install the hotspots.
Cache County School District Public Information Officer Tim Smith says earlier this spring the busses were equipped with the internet connectivity, originally, simply because of the pandemic.
“Districts who have been putting WiFi on busses, who have routes that are particularly long for either activities or bus routes home, to allow students to do homework while they’re on the bus,” Smith explains. “Several of those districts, when COVID hit in the spring of last year, actually took those busses and parked them in neighborhoods to provide WiFi access to their students in communities that didn’t have WiFi. That germinated the idea in our mind that it was a good time to cover both bases.”
Activity busses are the ones that teams use for travel, but also for other students who may be traveling long distances for field trips or other extra-curricular activities. Students may check out a school computer during these trips and work on their homework. Smith says the districts partnered with T-Mobile and Cradlepoint to equip the busses with LTE hot spots. But the district isn’t turning the students loose with unlimited internet access.
“We’re required to filter content in the schools for students,” Smith adds. “One of the big challenges is making sure we can filter that content on the busses so students aren’t into things they shouldn’t be or being disruptive when the bus driver is trying to focus on the road. That was important to us. It’s just as if they were standing in the footprint of the district.”
The district does not allow social media sites to be accessed while in any of the schools, nor do they allow access to most gaming sites. Accessing the internet on these activity busses will be just the same. And there is always an adult chaperone on the bus besides the driver who can monitor use and help students with any technical issues that may arise.
So far, Smith says students seem to appreciate the access.
“I know that because when we’ve had a few problems on the road, we sent some busses to St. George and one of the busses had a problem with the WiFi,” Smith recalls. “They were immediately calling back saying, ‘I can’t get to my homework! Can you help me out?’ A good indication that they’re being utilized more on the road.”
Smith says the combined districts are content with the 10 busses that are currently equipped, but will be watching to see if more may be necessary.