Elkhart (Ind.) Community Schools has partnered with mobile technology solutions supplier MITO Corp. and the Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) Summer Internship Program at the University of Notre Dame to help bridge the digital divide for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the partnership, at least 25 of the district's buses will be equipped with MITO Corp.’s WiFiRanger Teton C-19 broadcast units and core interior routers to provide internet access for students in the Elkhart area, according to a news release from the company.
Jason Inman, the district’s director of technology services, began working with the CCI interns to identify a solution for remote learning challenges faced at the end of last school year due to COVID-19.
Four interns, representing Elkhart High School and Goshen College, worked on the project through CCI.
“Anecdotally, we knew there was a need (for affordable Wi-FI), and even more so now with the pandemic. But we didn’t know exactly where it was concentrated,” said Jose Chiquito Galvan, CCI internship program manager for Elkhart. “The goal of the surveys was to get an understanding of the overall need for Wi-Fi access.”
“Once we saw the results of the surveys, the primary goal was to provide reliable internet to students in south central Elkhart,” said Irving Suarez, one of the CCI interns from Goshen College.
Coincidentally, it was CCI’s survey that led MITO Corp. to reach out with a solution that fit their mission, according to the company.
“While we had been marketing our WiFiRanger C-19 bus product line since the start of the pandemic, it wasn’t until we received the intern’s demographic survey of Elkhart County that MITO learned of this initiative,” said Dan Maloney, president of MITO Corp. “I approached MITO’s owner, Mike Stock, who is an Elkhart High School graduate and he was 100% on board for doing whatever we could as a company to help our local community and his alma mater.”
The outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots Elkhart Community Schools will be deploying through the CARES Act will have an omnidirectional range of about 2,000 feet, according to MITO Corp. Verizon will provide the internet service for the hotspots under a program that offers discounts to school districts. Additionally, MITO is offering its own discount on the broadcast hardware.