New SmartBuses bring free WiFi to Leon County students

Published: Apr. 30, 2020 at 1:43 PM EDT
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By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News

April 30, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Leon County Schools is rolling out a new way to help students learn from home.

On Thursday, the school district unveiled its new SmartBus Initiative. Starting Monday, 15 school buses will be parked at different locations providing students with free WiFi.

School districts in Florida remain closed for the remainder of the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Leon County Schools board officials say they recognize remote learning can be difficult for students and families, especially those without access to internet.

The buses are meant to bridge the gap, and give all students in the district the equal opportunity to succeed.

The district is hoping to break down what they call the 'digital divide.'

Darryl Jones with the Board of Education says the district has distributed 2,000 devices to help students learn from home. But without access to internet, that divide still exists.

"For a long time now our community has said it needed to have access so that their young people could be able to enjoy the same conveniences afforded with online technology to increase learning," Jones said.

Jones added that, although the pandemic has forced a fast track to initiatives like the SmartBus, the district plans to continue expanding access to resources past remote learning.

"What this SmartBus does is ensure that all students across the expanse of our district will have the same level of access through both devices and through these SmartBuses to make sure learning continues, and what will be a brand new paradigm of instruction and education in our Leon County School," Jones said.

The initiative is a collaboration with the South City Foundation, an organization help to fill the needs across South City.

Foundation Chair Representative Loranne Ausley says there are 770 district students in South City, half of whom don't have internet access at home.

"Our whole goal is to lift this neighborhood up, and how do we do that? We do that with housing, we do that with health and wellness, and we do that with education," Ausley said. "Kids should not be hindered by the neighborhood they live in, or anything."

District officials say the fifteen buses will be parked at targeted locations to reach students who need it. They will be on site each week day beginning Monday, from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

> for more information about how to log on, and the locations of each SmartBus.