October 18, 2021

Wi-Fi on the go

Cortland school district installs service on 4 buses

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Jordon Lilley, the transportation supervisor at the Cortland Enlarged City School District, connects his phone Tuesday to Wi-Fi from a school bus. The district recently equipped four of its buses with Wi-Fi to provide students with an opportunity to do work while traveling.

Suppose you’re a student in the Cortland Enlarged City School District on a long-distance trip and need to do homework. Or maybe you’re scrambling before class begins.

You may be in luck. The district recently installed Wi-Fi connectivity on four of its school buses, Assistant Superintendent Jeff Craig said.

“Kids are on their phones and now that every student has a Chromebook,” as provided by the district, “they really could do schoolwork on the bus,” he said.

The system, which operates through a modem attached to the inside of a bus, activates when the bus driver turns on the bus’s ignition, said Jordon Lilley, the transportation supervisor. This would be primarily when students are going to or coming from school or sports teams traveling.

Once on, students can connect to the wifi similarly to how they would with a home modem, by finding it in their wi-fi settings and entering in a password provided by the district, Lilley said.

Some websites will be blocked and bandwidth will be low, preventing students from watching videos on YouTube, Craig said.

Even though it’s only been available for a little over a week, “the kids seem to love it,” Lilley said.

They have also been helpful in providing feedback for improving the system, such as fixing connectivity issues.

Students reported losing internet connection after 30 minutes of use, which Lilley discovered was a factory preset. That has since been fixed.

Other districts, including the Homer Central School District have tested Wi-Fi on buses — it had 14 buses with wi-fi access in 2014 — but details were not available Tuesday.

Lilley said the district plans to buy four school buses in the upcoming school year that already have wi-fi installed as the need for students to access the internet for school grows.

He said he hopes all of the district’s 17 regular route buses — or those that don’t include students with disabilities who require specialized transportation — will soon have wi-fi.

This is another way the school is working to help students who may not have wifi at home.

The district offers portable wi-fi hotspots to families that don’t have access to the internet, Craig said.

“Hopefully it can offer students wi-fi that don’t have accessibility at home,” Lilley said.