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Granite School District rolls out WiFi buses to increase access to internet

FILE (Credit: KSLTV)

SALT LAKE COUNTY — The Granite School District announced it would send out 35 buses equipped with WiFi routers — allowing more students to access internet connections from home.

The district stretches from the east bench of Salt Lake County to Magna on the west side, covering roughly 355 square miles. The area includes several pockets of socio-economic diversity and impoverished students.

A diverse district

“[The] reality is we have one of the most socio-economically diverse districts in the state,” said Ben Horsley, spokesman for the Granite School District. “We knew some of our students did not have access to digital resources or online connectivity at home.”

Initially, students received physical paper worksheets and packets to work on when Gov. Gary Herbert announced the “soft closure” of all public schools March 13. The governor later extended the order, then announced schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year.

“They’ve been doing packet work at home, which is non-dynamic, it doesn’t have any engagement,” Horsley said. “The resources to be able to engage with a teacher from a distance over technology and WiFi is a crucial part of distance learning. This will be a big need.”

Buses as Wifi hotspots

Teachers and educators handed out hundreds of Chromebooks so students could complete their remote and online learning. They also meant for the Chromebooks to allow students to engage with their teachers when they need help. But many families don’t have access to internet connections at their homes.

Acquiring individual WiFi hotspots for all students would’ve been too expensive. But with bus routers, internet connections can extend 300 feet and give access to more people in the vicinity.

The Granite School District used a heat map to identify which areas the buses could be parked for the duration of the school day. These locations include apartment complexes, trailer parks and other neighborhoods — providing access to 35 different locations.

The district plans to rotate the buses regularly to cover up to 100 locations at set times. Horsley said only the school Chromebooks can access the internet connections.

Planning ahead

Because the district expects learning gaps during this unprecedented time, Horsley said the schools plan to assess these during the summer months.

While there is no set start date for these buses to be sent out, Horsley said some areas could see the launch as early as Friday — others will begin to see them implemented starting April 20.


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States