Students enrolled in Gainesville City Schools who have struggled with completing their online work because of a lack in internet connection will soon have access to a solution.
The solution comes in the form of the school district's new technology buses. The mobile buses are equipped a wireless network router, which have a range of 50 yards outside of the bus. Each bus also contains 15 Chromebooks for student use and a solar-powered battery, so the bus can operate regardless of the weather conditions.
“From an aspect of connectivity and access to technology, I think that’s a huge benefit. It closes the gap that many of our students probably have," said Eddie Nemec, director of Instructional Technology and Media Services for the school district. “Now, when it comes to learning online, when it comes to accessing internet resources and instruction, we’re able to go into the community and bring it to the students who are struggling with that.”
Along with internet connections, each bus is equipped with an interactive touch screen panel so teachers can hold classes inside of the bus. Each bus is conducive with a classroom setting with four folding tables, chairs and benches that also serve as storage areas. The buses also have space for holding bookbags and food.
Nemec said each bus will store "consumables" on board, which includes literary materials, paper, pens, markers, notecards and other materials that might be needed for learning and instruction.
“We liked that element that there was the ability to reach out to students and provide tutoring and instruction, so we took from that design and changed a few things," said Nemec. "That’s why we incorporated an interactive panel in the back, a place for the teacher to provide instruction and then also provide an area where they could use the dry erase board.”
While the buses are intended for educational purposes, a partnership with Gainesville High School's the Hub will allow staff to reach parents and other members of the community through the mobile buses.
Tonya Sanders, director of the Hub, said the buses provide academic support in the community "similar to the Hub but we meet the families where they’re at."
“With the Hub, we work on a few areas: academic support, workforce development, mental and behavioral health services, as well as some basic needs…the buses are our way to bring some of those services out into the community," said Sanders.
Construction on the inside of the buses, which were already owned by the school district, was funded by the Georgia Department of Education's L4GA literact grant. External community partners including Hall County Family Connection, Gainesville Housing Authority and Boys and Girls Clubs of Lanier played a role in the design and creation of the buses, according to Sanders.
Currently, only one of the three planned buses is complete. Nemec said the first completed bus will make rounds during the school district's open houses and at school events throughout August and September. All three buses are scheduled to be complete by October.
Once all three buses are complete, they will be launced officially into the community. Nemec said the buses may stop in residential communities and at local businesses.
“Wherever we determine the need is, so that we could go help the students…[there are] lots of options," he said.
Nemec said a schedule of where the buses will stop and when is likely going to be published on the school district's website.