Marietta schools turn school buses into hot spots for students

The Marietta City School System has installed WiFi hotspots on 12 school buses it will place in densely populated areas from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

The Marietta City School System has installed WiFi hotspots on 12 school buses it will place in densely populated areas from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

The Marietta City School System is taking a unique step to make sure students learning from home during the pandemic have access to a quality internet connection.

The system has installed Wi-Fi hot spots with 5G cellular connections on 12 school buses that will be parked from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday for students to use the connection to do their school work.

Superintendent Dr. Grant Rivera said the hot spots, which cost $9,421, were initially the district's primary plan to serve students who needed an internet connection for digital learning. Rivera said the project to install hot spots on buses became secondary once the system learned it could order 700 Wi-Fi hot spots to directly distribute to students.

Rivera said Marietta City Schools still has some students who didn’t want hot spots or were using their smart phones as a hot spot so, in response to community feedback, the system this week began placing the buses in communities for students to use.

“Now that schools are closed, we have students who want to be connected to their teacher and need to be connected to learning,” Rivera said. “We have to remove every barrier for a child who wants to learn and stay connected, but can’t.”

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A school system website provides information on how students can log on to the hot spots and the addresses where the buses are parked. Rivera said the Wi-Fi signal from the hot spots should be strong enough to allow students to use the connection from their homes nearby, thus ensuring they maintain social distancing guidelines.

Terri Anderson, who has been a bus driver with the school system since November, said she has enjoyed watching the students who live along Roosevelt Circle sit outside with their lunches and laptops and use the connection for their lessons. Anderson said drivers arrive at each location at 9 a.m., and information on how students can connect to the hot spots are posted outside the bus. Drivers remain on site in case students need help.

She also said it’s been impressive to see the system transition seamlessly to digital learning in a time when everything remains uncertain.

“We have not skipped a beat, and everyone has been on track in making this come alive,” she said.

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Marietta City Schools have been closed since March 16 due to novel coronavirus pandemic. The bus hot spots are part of the school system's effort to make sure all students can take part in digital learning through the end of the school year. The system also provided 2,684 Google Chromebooks for students who lacked the necessary technology.

Since schools were closed, the system has had 93% of its roughly 8,900 students log on to Schoology, its digital learning management system. However, Rivera said the system is analyzing how frequently students are accessing the system and will reach out to families who continue to struggle with accessibility.

Rivera said the school system’s decision to outfit buses with hot spots is “one more layer of making sure we virtually reach every child in Marietta.”

Anderson added the way Marietta City Schools has handled changes required by the coronavirus outbreak has confirmed that her choice to join the system as a bus driver was a positive move.

“I appreciate being part of this, even through this difficult time,” she said.

The buses will be parked at Laurel Hill Apartments, Lassiter Drive at Halsey Drive, 555 Little Street, Clifton Ridge apartments, Custer Park, Roosevelt Circle, 750 Franklin Gateway, 2121 Windy Hill Road, Booth Road Park, Elizabeth Porter Park, Laurel Park and 707 Franklin Gateway.

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