GREENVILLE, S.C. — Students in Greenville County Schools can now connect to the internet while they ride the school bus, thanks in part to the efforts of a fellow student.
Last month, Greenville County Schools launched Wi-Fi on 115 school buses, enabling student passengers to access online textbooks and other resources. Henry Lear, the sophomore class president at Southside High School, was a driving force in the project.
In August, Lear gave a two-minute speech to Greenville County Schools’ board of trustees in which he convinced them of the benefits of Wi-Fi on school buses.
“For one, students need to get online work done after school,” Lear told School Bus Fleet. “Coupled with the One [to] One program that issues laptops, students can complete work on bus rides that can range from an hour to two. Additionally, for some students, this is their only opportunity outside of school to access the web.”
Lear’s presentation at the board meeting was well received. Afterward, the trustees talked with Lear at length about the Wi-Fi idea. As a next step, they arranged for him to meet with the district’s executive director of education technology, Bill Brown. Lear also researched other school districts’ implementation of school bus Wi-Fi, including Coachella Valley Unified School District in California.
As the Wi-Fi concept gathered steam at Greenville County Schools, Lear continued to meet with Brown to discuss updates. To help fund the project, the district gained a grant through the South Carolina Department of Education’s Mobile Device Access and Management Initiative.
In April, Wi-Fi went live on 115 Greenville school buses. The system uses the same internet security filters as in the district’s classrooms.
David Poag, Greenville County Schools' coordinator of routing and scheduling, said that the district plans to have all 425 of its buses equipped as “mobile classrooms” before the next school year begins. In all, Greenville transports more than 26,000 students daily.
The district implemented Cradlepoint Wi-Fi technology through its existing AngelTrax video surveillance system. The integration provides benefits beyond internet access for students.
“In addition to Wi-Fi, we’ve leveraged the technology to include live GPS and live camera view for emergencies,” Poag said. Lear noted that the Wi-Fi can also help in maintaining an orderly school bus environment when passengers are working on devices, which in turn will contribute to safety by helping the driver stay focused.
The ambitious high schooler added that he's glad to have been part of a project that will benefit the entire district.
“I'm so lucky to have been able to help make this happen,” Lear said. “It's a fantastic boost to student productivity and a great asset for our school bus fleet here in Greenville.”