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Wi-Fi turns activity bus into extended classroom in Minn. school district

NEVIS, Minn. — It wasn’t all that long ago that wireless internet, or Wi-Fi, seemed like a luxury only to be used for specific purposes by large corporations or complex businesses.

But at Nevis School District, it’s now in a school bus.

The activity bus — used to transport students involved in sports, speech and other extracurricular activities – will now be capable of transmitting a Wi-Fi signal, provided by Verizon wireless and capable of maintaining a 10GB bandwidth.

Originated as an idea to further use the “one-to-one” tablet initiative in which every student receives a district-issued Microsoft tablet, Superintendent Steve Rassier sees the Wi-Fi as a great resource for students trying to make the most of their time while on long rides to and from events.

“The idea fed off the fact that we were going to be issuing students the tablets this year, everybody K-12,” Rassier said. “We then heard that Bemidji had installed Wi-Fi in their buses, and they must have seven or eight with it by now. I then heard that Park Rapids has it, and if Park Rapids has it, then we’re going to have it. Whatever they’ve got, we’re going to try and do it better.”

Rassier sees Wi-Fi as great benefit for students who will be able to do academic work while traveling on the activity bus, sometimes for a couple of hours.

“I think the biggest thing is the bus now will essentially become an extension of the classroom,” Rassier said.

He hopes the Wi-Fi installment will go smoothly, allowing a quick transition period.

“I don’t think it will be difficult to install. We just bought the router from Verizon and it will be mounted in the bus. We buy a data plan; we are going with the 10GB plan, which they have told us will more than cover what we need it for,” Rassier said. “The Wi-Fi will only be on the activity bus, which doesn’t go out on daily routes. It is pretty well reserved only for activity trips such as football, basketball, volleyball, the knowledge bowl and so on.”

The new feature will be budgeted as a district expense. Its funding will come out of Nevis’ technology budget, and no additional funding will be necessary.

Todd Kumpula, network coordinator for Park Rapids Area Schools, oversaw installment of Wi-Fi in three Park Rapids buses and has seen students benefit.

“Students are able to get their assignments, research and turn in homework while on the bus for activities,” Kumpula said. “Accessibility is important in our time. If we can make it easier for students and staff, then we should. If the tools are there, let’s use them as best as we can.”

Rassier remains excited to see the idea come to fruition.

“The students on the activity bus are probably some of our best academic students; those are the kids that I think are going to use it a lot,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll be an unnecessary distraction. I always say with my kids, ‘Busy hands are happy hands.’ If they use it like they should, it will be a very good investment.”