Starting Wednesday, the Cobb County School District will turn 27 buses into mobile hotspots to provide internet access for students learning virtually.
Students in the district began their school year virtually Aug. 17 due to the coronavirus. Since then, the number of new cases reported each day has declined, and the district has announced plans to reopen all of its schools to students by early November. But parents may be uncomfortable sending their children back to the classroom and will be allowed to continue virtual learning for the foreseeable future.
“The goal of the bus Wi-Fi program is to serve the maximum number of students who currently may not be participating in remote classes due to limited or no internet connectivity,” the district announced in a news release. “Ideal locations around the county were determined by examining (Cobb Teaching and Learning System) use and access.”
The buses have been equipped with Wi-Fi transmitters and will be parked in 23 separate locations — four areas require two buses for internet coverage — from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The state Department of Education is funding the initiative.
The debate over access to the district’s online learning platform turned contentious in the weeks leading up to the school year, with some faulting Superintendent Chris Ragsdale for using $8 million in federal aid to complete the CTLS online platform rather than laptops and internet access for underserved students. But Ragsdale said that was a cart-before-the-horse argument, for without a platform to connect to, devices in the hands of students would be useless.
In a news release announcing the mobile hotspots, the district noted it has fulfilled the vast majority of requests for learning devices it has received this year.
“The District has already distributed more than 300 Wi-Fi hotspots to Cobb Schools families, as well as nearly 40,000 electronic devices for remote learning,” according to the release. “Approximately 38,000 device requests have been made this school year alone, and approximately 35,000 have been picked up. Currently, there are about 3,400 devices still waiting to be picked up.”
To see a spreadsheet listing the neighborhoods covered and other resources, visit cobbk12.org.