WIFI Bus Parked at ASU to Help Local Students During Pandemic
By Hazel Scott/ASU
The Montgomery Public School (MPS) system has found a creative way to ensure their students have internet access during the COVID-19 pandemic and Alabama State University is supporting that initiative. The state’s schools were closed earlier this year because of the crisis.
MPS has turned nine school buses into mobile Wi-Fi hotspots to allow students who don’t have broadband at home to get connected. This was made possible through the partnership between MPS, the city of Montgomery and TechMGM.
The Wi-Fi-equipped buses will be parked at different vicinities in different neighborhoods so students in proximity of the mobile buses can tap into the Wi-Fi there. Students have the opportunity to do their class work at the sites or to write down their assignments and complete them at home.
One of those mobile school buses is parked in ASU’s parking lot behind the University’s Football Stadium. The Wi-Fi bus will service Paterson Court and Centennial Hill neighborhoods.
“Alabama State University is excited to be part of the Montgomery Public Schools’ initiative,” Ross said. “When you think about our theme of CommUniversity, this truly embodies that. Having the bus on campus is a visible sign of our connection to the community and of our commitment to access to education for all young people.”
Ross remarked that students who don’t have access to reliable internet at home find it harder to complete and submit homework assignments, further expanding the inequality already seen in low-income communities.
MPS Superintendent Dr. Ann Roy Moore said with tens of millions of students quarantined at home and educators seeking ways to deliver instruction, the mobile Wi-Fi buses will give access to students who are most in need of the technology to ensure they don't fall behind.
“One good thing about the locations of these buses is that you don’t have to necessarily go to the one in your neighborhood. If you are staying at grandmother’s during the day and there is a bus close by, you can go to that one,” Moore said. “You are not assigned to the bus down the street from your house. You can go to any bus location and use it.”
Moore noted that students will not have access to a teacher “live” to go over assignments as they would in a classroom.
The MPS also addressed the digital divide, Moore said by providing devices (laptop, iPads and chromebooks) to students it will fill in the gaps of what they didn’t have at home.
“We hope we have alleviated any fears about students not being able to do their work because they don’t have access to Wi-Fi or devices (parents have the opportunity to check out a device at their child’s school),” Moore said. “We are asking our parents to please take advantage of these opportunities.”
Moore also said that this initiative must be a collaborative effort with student’s families or guardians in order for it to be successful.
“We are relying on parents, big brothers and sisters or anybody supervising young students to encourage and help them to do their work,” Moore said. “In a regular classroom, a teacher could supervise students and tell them they are not doing the required lessons. So parents will have to fill in that gap.”
Ross spoke to the need for the “village” to step in to support young students.
"We must work together in light of this unprecedented disruption of K-12 education by the pandemic,” Ross said. "We cannot afford for students to be left behind during this crisis.”
Along with ASU, six other Wi-Fi school buses rolled out on Wednesday, April 15, with another three to be placed as “hot spots” at a later time. The complete list of sites for the first week are:
- Alabama State University Football Stadium parking lot
- The parking lot of Winn Dixie located on U.S. 31
- Sikes and Kohn’s on U.S. 231
- Cleveland Avenue YMCA
- BP gas station on Union Academy Road and Alabama 94
- Gibbs Village Boys and Girls Club
Each bus, except the Cleveland Ave. YMCA bus, will be available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Cleveland Ave. YMCA bus will be available every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.