Hopewell City Pubic Schools in Virginia Equip Buses with WiFi to Promote Inclusion

Smart Cities Connect Media and Research previously reported on the Digital Bridge Project in San Francisco that is providing WiFi hot spots for online learning. Hopewell City Public Schools (HCPS) in Hopewell, VA will take a different approach. It plans to retrofit school buses with wireless routers to provide WiFi access to students who don’t have reliable internet access at home.

The 31 school buses will be able to send wireless signals to homes within about 300 feet (~ 91 meters) and are expected to allow roughly 1,000 students to continue distance learning while schools are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school district signed a 12-month contract with Kajeet – a company based in Northern Virginia, to install the wireless routers. The routers utilize mobile networks from cellular towers using Verizon wireless service. The cost of the entire project will be around $29,000, with nearly half of that cost funded by grants.

Kris Reed, the Supervisor of Information Technology at Hopewell City Public Schools, said the project’s aim is to help close the “equity gap” of internet access in the district.

The internet service provided by the program will be specifically for school-related use only. HCPS will have the ability to monitor how the access is being used and will be able to control who is using it and for what purpose. The access will also be compliant with the Children Internet Protection Act.

“We can allow the kids what they need access to, while also limiting things that are going to be wasting data and wasting bandwidth through the routers,” Reed said.