BARNWELL COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — As schools across Georgia-Carolina continue with e-learning during the pandemic, at least one district has taken a unique approach to make sure every student has access to the internet.
“You want to go in and find your wifi connection,” Bus driver Delenia Phiniezy told Jazaven Frederick as she shows him how to log on to her bus’ WiFi. “When you log in, you going to go to your site that you need to download your studies on,” Phiniezy added.
Barnwell School District 45 has deployed four WiFi-enabled school buses. These buses will park in rural areas of the county like in Snelling where internet access could be limited.
Less than a thousand students attend the school district. One of those students is Jazaven Frederick.
“I stay with my mama. We don’t have WiFi there. I go to my grandma’s house and I used her WiFi,” he shared.
Since being out of school. The sixth-grader at Barnwell Elementary is working to get ahead so he doesn’t fall behind. “I log in, I go to my classroom and do some of my work and download the Google docs that are allowed to be downloaded,” he added.
Its range is about 200 to 400 feet, giving his mom the chance to just park and let him connect. People can just pull up, download the information they need, and then go.
“After you sign on the first time, then you just come back and sign on automatically. It’s not changing a password every day, but each bus has its own password, so you can’t just go to another site and just sign in,” Phiniezy said.
The effort is a state-wide one. Local transportation departments pick out locations to be served. “What we try to do is kind of center it into all the routes. So it’s not every route has a WiFi bus,” Phiniezy shared. “Pretty much in this rural area, this is the only option,” she added.
Many school districts like them had to move quickly to transition to e-learning, presenting a potential problem for those in areas not largely populated.
Shawn learned from state officials that more than 680 requests for WiFi-enabled buses to help students have been received. 375 buses have been connected to internet providers during phase 1. State education leaders then say that equipping the remaining buses for phase 2 and continuing to gather feedback will be next.
“Support your WiFi, ask questions, ask for more locations because we really need this in order to keep our kids on focus with their education,” Phiniezy said.
For Jazaven’s brother Joseph, WiFi throughout the entire county wasn’t an option for him while in grade school but he’s pleased to see his younger brother be able to benefit from options that others in more occupied areas can enjoy. “we ain’t had it so right now, it’s a really good advantage that I want to see them do good and do better out here. So it’s good seeing him do his work and keeping up with his education even though this corona trying to take us all out,” he said.
Seven Pines Baptist Church, Red Oak Fire Department, Great Cypress Baptist Church, and Friendship Baptist Church will continue to have WiFi-enabled buses available. They will be available again Monday-Friday starting April 13.
Shawn did check on other rural school districts in our viewing area:
In Allendale County, buses go out into different parts of the community each day. “We have also extended our wireless reach to the parking lots of every school so parents and students may park outside the buildings to use the internet,” officials said.
Union Apartments, Mt. Calvary Church, St. Mark Baseball Field, Oakland Apartments, and Pinewood Apartments will provide internet access there from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. where students can get on the bus and work from their iPads.
Denmark-Olar School District will provide access to Wi-Fi-enabled school buses on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1-3 p.m., beginning Wednesday, April 8. The school buses will be parked at the following locations:
Generette Court and Rose Apts.
Denmark Gardens Apts.
No Wi-Fi service will be provided during the week of April 13 as the district will be closed for spring break.