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WiFi enabled buses help West Ottawa Public School students

That plan: a fleet of 15 WiFi enabled buses, deployed to areas that are needed most.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — School districts across the country have had to rapidly change the way they educate students, going from in-classroom instruction to remote learning nearly overnight.

And while hours of prep have gone into virtual curriculum, it's all for naught if students don't have internet access.That's why the West Ottawa Public Schools District is rolling out a very special fleet Monday.

"We identified 15 locations in our district with some dense housing areas and areas where we felt students may not have enough access to robust WiFi,” explained West Ottawa Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services, Todd Tulgestke. “We've got a good plan in place. Really it’s about equity and access," he said.

That plan: a fleet of 15 WiFi enabled buses, deployed to areas that are needed most.

West Ottawa teachers worked hard to produce online learning opportunities. But if a student can’t access the internet, it’s almost like being locked out of the classroom.

“Our goal is to put every tool that we can find in place to help improve that access so that we are trying to ensure equity across our student body,” said Tulgestke.

So from 8:30 a.m.- 1 p.m. Monday/Wednesday/Friday, these wheels mean school is rolling into session. “The WiFi signal has range of 500 feet in diameter so anybody within 500 feet can receive the signal. It may look like parents driving up to the bus, it may look like students walking up within 500 feet,” explained Tulgestke.

The district didn’t have to do this alone. Several local business partners stepped in. Their help, combined with federal stimulus dollars for schools, made this possible.

Tulgestke explained that this idea really got traction after the success of their district wide food delivery program -- buses stop at 48 different locations across the district with food for students.

See the interactive map from the school district to find a bus in your area. 

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