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Buses to bring Wi-Fi connections to Richmond County students

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 6:24 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - With more than half of students fully learning from home in Richmond County, the school district is working to bring kids better internet access. And they’re using buses to do it.

Hot spot buses will be rolling out to neighborhoods around Richmond County to help with connectivity. Nearly 16,000 students are learning virtually, so their goal is to make sure every student has access to good internet.

“We’ve definitely seen more students and families coming in to use our library resources,” Leah Holloway, PR assistant for the Richmond County Library, said.

Resources like Wi-Fi and computers that at least 611 families in Richmond County don’t have.

“There are a number of people struggling with connectivity issues right now. There are just families that just don’t have the means to have computer access of they just can’t afford it,” Holloway said.

Through the Georgia K-12 student connectivity grant, the county got 14 Wi-Fi transmitters that will be installed on their buses.

“It’s going to hopefully equalize that playing field a little bit more for those students that do not have the option to have internet,” Malinda Cobb, associate superintendent of Richmond County schools, said.

Those buses will go to neighborhoods with the most students who have the least connectivity. The board is still ironing out the exact locations.

But about the Wi-Fi – it reaches from 150 feet to half a mile. Dr. Cobb says a lot of families thought they had the right technology.

“By the time you put two or three students and a parent working from home, they realize they thought they were good, but I’m really not. We’ve heard from a lot of those families that have said they didn’t think they needed help, but they really do,” she said.

Bandwidth only stretches so far when you have four kids and maybe a parent or two learning and working from home. So, the district hopes these buses will help fix the connection problem.

The buses are expected to roll out in late October.

“Students aren’t going to be able to complete their homework. There are those that aren’t able to fill out college applications or complete that college essay. It’s really important to have things like Wi-Fi and I’m happy students and families are going to have more options here,” Cobb said.

For everyone’s safety, the board says they will have public safety officers patrolling the areas where the buses are parked.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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