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Painesville Schools offering Wi-Fi hotspot vans throughout the city for students with no internet

Posted at 6:30 AM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 18:50:17-04

PAINESVILLE, Ohio — Remote learning has been an adjustment for every school district, but it has caused some unique challenges for districts like Painesville City Schools.

“We needed a solution for students that don’t have access to internet,” said Heidi Fyffe, the director of state and federal programs for the district.

She said about 25% of students don’t have access to internet at all, and that doesn’t include students trying to access their school work using their parent’s cellphones.

Superintendent Joshua Englehart said internet access wasn’t even their first hurdle, it was getting about 1,200 chrome books to students within the district.

“The whole statewide school closure has shined a bright light on the inequities among our communities that exist within our educational system, in particular,” said Englehart. “They’re always there. I think this has just highlighted what they are, and it means districts like ours have to do things very differently than our neighbors.”

Englehart said more than 85% of the district’s students are at or below the poverty line. It’s a 100% free and reduced lunch district.

Thanks to donations from Avery Dennison, Lifeline, Grand Rock Exhaust Solutions, and Catalyst Ministry the district is offering WiFi access to students through vans equipped with mobile access points. Multiple vans will be positioned throughout the city, Monday through Friday, on a regular schedule.

The hot spot vans will have a range of about 500 feet and about 100 students can log on at a time to access their schoolwork and upload their homework.

There’s a set schedule for the vans:

  • 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m- Heritage Middle School and Elm Street Elementary School
  • 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.- Harvey High School and Morley Public Library
  • 3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.- Brentwood Apartments and Seneca Grove (formerly Argonne Arms) Apartments
  • 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.- Maple Elementary School and Woodlawn Home Apartments

Again, this service will begin on Thursday, April 23. If there are any future changes made to this schedule, they will be communicated.

Englehart said after they work out the logistics of the vans, they can start tackling other issues they know their students may be dealing with.

“It’s the last of the basic, tier 1, access barriers and we can’t even really get to the things like mental and physical health, management of schedule, and number of kids in the families who have to compete for technology and bandwidth and all those next level concerns,” he said. “We can’t get to those until we get to the first level, tier 1 concern, which is basic access.”