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Connecting kids: Wi-Fi to be offered on school buses in Schuylkill County

Internet connection remains an issue in rural Pennsylvania. One school district in Schuylkill County is thinking outside the bus to keep kids connected.

POTTSVILLE, Pa. — These days, almost every learning activity done in schools requires an internet connection. 

Students in the Pottsville Area School District carry their assigned iPad with them everywhere they go, but they're almost useless without Wi-Fi.

"We certainly face connectivity challenges," said Caitlyn Mohl, Principal of D.H.H. Lengel Middle School. "While we do have a great internet provider here, obviously there's always glitches, and there's students in different areas that don't always have consistent access."

It's become more of a problem during the pandemic, often leaving students without strong Wi-Fi at home, behind in their classes.

"They get behind, and then when it is time of them to come back, it's a hurdle for them to catch up to where we were, as well as where they need to be and where the class has moved on to," Mohl said.

But now, the same fleet of vehicles bringing kids to school can help them get connected.

The district has mounted Wi-Fi hotspots inside school buses and vans, offering mobile solutions for students needing to log on.

"If we would come to a point where there's a huge spike in COVID cases, or we need to close for any reason and we know that there are areas that don't have the greatest connectivity, we would be able to locate those buses, and we would be able to park those buses there," Mohl said. "Students would be able to move and be in proximity to access that Wi-Fi."

The crucial additions come at no cost to the district. 

Pottsville schools received nearly $75,000 in federal grants through the Emergency Connectivity Fund. 

Several families have been given Wi-Fi hotspots for their homes. 

The district wants to make sure the learning process is never interrupted.

"Being able to think outside the box and make sure that we are reaching every single one of our kids and giving every kid that opportunity," Mohl said. "Whether they're here in school or at home or traveling on a bus somewhere, we definitely want to make sure the most possible access to their education and continuing to make progress through learning."

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