Reardan-Edwall School District using WiFi buses to give families access to internet while remote learning

REARDAN, Wash.– More and more school districts are turning to remote learning as omicron cases rise. That means students have to use the internet to log in and learn virtually.

“We just do not want to be in this situation. Nobody wants to be remote but we’re making the most of it so we’ve got all the teachers that can be on-site today and we are making the most of this remote learning scenario,” Reardan-Edwall superintendent Eric Sobotta said.

However, not everyone has the ability to access the Internet. The Reardan-Edwall School District is one of the places that’s going remote. To help families who don’t have internet access, it’s sending out two WiFi school buses.

The buses are equipped with WiFi and all families have to do is pull up to one and they can join class virtually and use it to download schoolwork onto their laptops.

The school district received an emergency connectivity fund from the federal government. Now, more than 90 families have access to the internet.

Sobotta said they got the bus idea from other districts that were taking a similar route to get families access to the internet.

“In learning about that we thought we can do that too in rural Reardan, Washington, and so went ahead and equipped those two buses. We actually have more if we need them, but we feel like in this scenario with 90 more of our families connected those two buses should be enough,” he said.

It’s a problem that came to the surface this year, the district surveyed families and found that 35 families said they had inadequate access or no access at all to the internet.

It’s a major issue for people living in rural communities that they want to see fixed.

“We’re looking for partners to partner with us to get fiber out here to Lincoln County to have all of our families connected with the level of connectivity where you could have multiple siblings logged in at the same time,” Sobotta said.

The buses are parked at Christian Heritage School and the Four Mound Fire Station.

Reardan-Edwall School District announced Monday students would be switching to remote learning because of staffing issues. In a lengthy voicemail Monday, the superintendent said the district was committed to in-person learning as long as they had enough staff to do so, but that’s no longer the case. 

The district will provide meals to families who need them; those families are asked to notify the district of the need by 7 a.m. each day. 

Athletics will operate “day to day” the superintendent said, saying if they have coaches to coach, teams will practice and play. 

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