February 1, 2017

THE INFRASTRUCTURE THAT MATTERS:

Can School Buses Close the Digital Gap? : Districts are experimenting with ways to get every student access to high-speed Internet. Right now, millions don't. (TOD NEWCOMBE | JANUARY 2017, Governing)

Take an evening drive through some of the towns that make up the Coachella Valley Unified School District, a largely rural area near the Salton Sea in Riverside County, Calif., and you might be surprised to see yellow school buses parked in odd, uncharacteristic locations. But rest assured, they have a purpose. Equipped with Wi-Fi routers and solar panels, these buses provide Internet to the district's most underserved communities.

Coachella is one of the poorest school districts in the country: Nearly 80 percent of its students live in poverty, which means many households can't afford Internet access. That's why Coachella's school leaders have turned 100 buses along with several cars into mobile hot spots -- so students can do their homework.

Coachella's Internet challenges are acute, but the district is far from the only place that has connectivity issues. Nearly 5 million households with school-age children do not have high-speed Internet service, according to the Pew Research Center. Low-income households, especially black and Hispanic ones, make up a disproportionate share of the disconnected households. That's bad news, especially when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says seven out of 10 teachers assign homework that requires high-speed Internet access.

Posted by at February 1, 2017 5:31 AM

  

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