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Wi-fi buses could bridge digital divide

While trying to use distance learning in the wake of pandemic-driven school closings, superintendent Jute Wilson and others within the school system have had to come to grips with vast connectivity issues in the community. Many people are dependent on ATT’s abysmally slow DSL service. Home buyers and others moving here often have to get on a waiting list to get that service due to a lack of bandwidth. There are satellite and cellular services out there but none is blazing fast. ’There is a real digital divide here in Lamar County. It is not just in poorer areas either. There are folks in real nice homes who have no access. We are really close to putting a Chromebook in each student’s hands but many of them won’t be able to get access,’ Wilson told a video-conferenced meeting of the Barnesville Rotary Club April 28. One possible solution is the use of wi-fi buses. These are school buses loaded with connectivity gear which would visit areas of the county on a schedule. Parents would pull students up to the bus allowing students to log in and upload or download their assignments. The cost is estimated to be $60,000-$70,000. ‘We might run one or two. We wouldn’t use our best buses. There are more questions than answers on this right now,’ Wilson said.

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