BC-OR--Coquille-Wifi School Buses/543
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Oregon district installs wifi on 2 school buses
ANDREW SHEELER, The World
COQUILLE, Ore. (AP) — It's a rainy morning in Coquille, and Coquille School District bus mechanic Dave Smith has a problem.
He has to figure out the best way to run wires through the fiberglass inside Bus No. 18, as part of an effort to create a wireless Internet network on the bus.
"It's a lot of running up and down a ladder is what it is," Smith said, taking a break from the inside to work on a circuit board he's installing on the side of the bus.
The installation of a wireless Internet network on 18, and Bus No. 24 as well, is the culmination of more than a year of work, Coquille Junior-Senior High School Principal Jeff Philley said.
"It was actually an idea that one of our teachers had," Philley said.
English teacher Troy Cooper said a student traveling for extracurricular activity missed an assignment deadline because of an inability to upload from the road. Philley said Cooper wondered whether students, who make frequent use of Chromebooks and other web-capable devices for school, might not be able to work on homework from the road.
"And I thought at first it was kind of a crazy idea," Philley said.
Coquille School District Superintendent Tim Sweeney said that his district was able to convince the Oregon Department of Education to reimburse 70 percent of the equipment cost for two wireless routers, each one coming in at around $1,100. Sweeney said ODE regularly reimburses school districts for student travel-related expenses, since long-distance road trips are just part of the students' reality in rural Oregon.
The district would be responsible for paying the approximately $80 a month bill from Verizon Wireless, the Internet provider used by the district.
Taking a break from installation, Smith points out the ingenuity of the installation. An antenna on the top of the bus will feed to the router, providing wireless Internet to the entire bus.
Philley described it another way.
"It's called a bubble," he said, and nobody really knows yet how far that bubble will extend.
Philley, Sweeney and Smith all said they believed it possible that the bubble could theoretically cover a second vehicle, allowing that vehicle's occupants to enjoy the benefits of free, unlimited wireless Internet as long as the vehicle keeps pace.
At a meeting of the Coquille school board, Sweeney said he chose Verizon because it offered the best statewide coverage, but that in the future both routers could be equipped with a second SIM card, allowing access to another wireless network, such as one run by AT&T. Sweeney said that could help prevent Internet outages which could scramble students' work during period when they are traveling through Internet "dead zones."
Philley said the district doesn't plan on stopping at two buses.
"We're planning on getting them on the rest of our fleet," he said. "The goal is to get them out on the routes."
Philley said the hope is that once buses are wireless-enabled, students like Cooper's won't run into any more technological obstacles to finishing their homework.
"No excuses now," Philley said with a smile.
Information from: The World, http://www.theworldlink.com
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