No one at Alice Drive Elementary School would deny that Hazel Grace Kolb and Lexie Kinder are best friends.
"We used to dress all up and, put a crown on her hair, and wiggle a wand, and put on little play high heels and play around like little princesses," says Hazel Grace.
Their desks are side-by-side, in the third grade classroom, but lately Lexie's desk has been empty...
"It made me feel like she wasn't going to be in class anymore, like she wouldn't be there and everything," says Hazel Grace.
Until last week, when everything changed...that change is VGo, a 4-and-a-half foot remote telepresence system, giving medically homebound students new opportunities.
"It's not for every student, but at the same time, it can provide the school experience for students who can not be involved with that,"says Sumter County Schools' director of Specialized Programming, Shawn Hagerty.
It was Lexie's decision to personalize VGo, now dressed in bandages that once covered her pic line.
"Lexie's is precious, I mean, it's just, it's her. When I look at her, it just reminds me of Lexie," says Alice Drive Elementary School third grade teacher Ivey Smith.
When it comes on, V-Go's not the only one who lights up. Using The internet, Lexie can to drive to her desk.
"Lexie can you see the board?" Hagerty asks. "Yeah," she answers. "Do you have something to write on?" Hagerty asks. "Yes Ma'am," Lexie answers.
V-Go can take Lexie anywhere. For the first time, she rolled down crowded hallways to lunch, but getting around desks...is a challenge itself.
"I bump sometimes, but that's okay," Lexie says.
With a good friend close...anything seems possible. "Come on, come to me," says Hazel Grace to Lexie.
"In terms of interaction with others, in terms of friendship skills, in terms of feeling a sense of school culture, feeling the sense of remotely interacting academically, socially, it means the world to them," Hagerty says.
It's meant the world to the Kinder family. "She loves the school. She's been there since she was three, maybe two," Cristi Kinder, Lexie's mom. "We're just thankful that the school district has given us this opportunity and given Lexie the opportunity," says Lexie's dad, Scott Kinder.
And, to one third grader who's missed her classmate and friend.
"It's like she's finally back, yay!" says Hazel Grace.
Sumter County Schools purchased three V-Go robots under the pilot program. Each V-go costs about $5,000...about the equivalent of homebound instruction for a student.
The technology was developed by and is sold by VGo Communications. Verizon is a partner of VGo and the product can use a WiFi connection, as it does at Sumter School District, or the Verizon 4G LTE network.
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