ROCHELLE – With students learning from home across the state, Rochelle Township High School administrators have thought of a way to help provide fast, reliable Internet access to as many students throughout the community as possible.
RTHS has partnered with Kajeet, a mobile phone operator company that makes a product called SmartBus. This product uses Verizon LTE routers to outfit district vehicles into mobile WiFi hotspots. RTHS has five of these vehicles that will be placed throughout the community in different locations, proving Internet access to students in their neighborhoods Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m.
“There are a lot of other free Internet resources around town,” said Will Wise, RTHS IT director. “But we wanted to make sure that we are able to serve those people who are stuck in their neighborhoods and not able to make it or travel to other locations.”
Tests have shown that each vehicle can provide a good Internet signal up to 60 yards away in each direction. Free WiFi is also being offered at both RTHS and RMS during these times. While there may be other Internet options throughout the community, this was done to help make it more accessible for people who may be bound to their homes.
Jason Harper, high school and elementary school district superintendent, presented the idea and Mr. Wise put the plan into motion.
“The schools are excited we were able to secure the hardware needed to provide free wireless Internet at various high need locations in our community,” said Harper. “We hope by providing these Internet options, we can help close the connectivity gap created when schools closed for the year.”
The school would also like to thank Mike Tooley for doing all the physical instillations. The district understands the struggles the schools closing put on many families and hopes this will help many of those families.
Acquiring the routers from Kajeet involved paying up front for a one-year contract, just like most phone service plans. So, the district plans to monitor all data usage during the duration of its contract, as this could be a viable option if school closures should extend passed this school year.
“We plan to review the data usage from these mobile hotspots and combine it with our student engagement data,” said Harper. “Based off these two pieces of information, combined with the advantage of using mobile vehicles to deliver the internet, we can modify our approach as time goes on to better serve our students.”