The First Student fleet of buses for the Lincoln County School District are now equipped with Wi-Fi. (Photo by Kenneth Lipp)

Lincoln County kids can now access the internet during bus rides to and from school.

According to a press release from the Lincoln County School District, the district recently installed 88 Wi-Fi connectivity kits to provide service to each of the First Student buses used by the district. The connections have been tested and are now available to any student who wishes to use their time on the bus to do homework or be otherwise productive during their time as riders.

“We felt it was important to offer this service to our students who need access and ability to use the time they have commuting to and from school to complete assignments. This will be especially useful for our students who are traveling long distances or to games and activities,” said Sarah Monroe, LCSD transportation liaison who worked on the project along with other district staff and leadership from First Student, the district’s transportation contractor.

The investment cost $91,480.40 for 12 months of connectivity, paid out of the district’s General Fund. The district has applied for federal Emergency Connectivity Funding to reimburse the cost and is awaiting approval.

Each school bus can now be used to provide mobile hotspots if needed in an emergency or other situations.

SmartBus Wi-Fi services are hosted by Kajeet with the dual connection of AT&T and Verizon networks. This will allow the Wi-Fi connection to automatically switch to the provider that has the best coverage as the bus travels throughout the county. There are filter and access settings in place restricting what sites students can access, which can be further managed by the LCSD technology department. The password is “smartbus” for all buses.

Dustin Hankins, a parent of a student at Taft, said he is pleased with this announcement.

“With today’s mounting pressure on student-athletes to keep grades up, to be punctual after returning home later and later from games, keeping kids connected is of utmost importance,” Hankins said. “With Wi-Fi on the buses, student-athletes will be able to continue their studying whilst traveling, therefore reducing the time needed to be connected at home after travel, which in turn allows more time for the student to rest, recharge and be not only on time the next morning but be fully engaged and on time the day after the competition.”

In addition to the new Wi-Fi service, the district also has a resource for parents and guardians of bus riders, the First View Parent App, which provides GPS tracking and notifications of a student’s bus service. Detailed information is available on the district’s website at lincoln.k12.or.us/resources/family/bus/firstview/, and security codes can be obtained from the office of the student’s school.

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