This article was contributed by Anne Smith with Engie.
On May 18, the Aromas-San Juan Unified School District announced the availability of district-wide WiFi-enabled school buses to serve students and their families during ongoing distance learning needs. Students will be able to safely access remote learning content while maintaining social distancing, free of charge. Close to 25% of district students lack internet access.
The district’s new ‘Student WiFi Zone’ will be accessible and regularly-stationed in centralized locations throughout the community starting May 18. These buses provide reliable, fast internet within a 300-foot radius for those affected by California’s mandated shelter-in-place order. The Aromas ‘Student WiFi Zone’ is made possible through a public/private partnership between the school district, ENGIE North America, and Icomera, an ENGIE company.
WiFi zones are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the following locations:
- Marshall’s Market, Aromas
- Abbe Park, San Juan Bautista
- Hacienda de Leal at 410 The Alameda, San Juan Bautista
- Red Barn Flea Market at 1000 US-101, Aromas
Nearly 22% of U.S. households have no access to the internet on a regular basis. During the shutdown of typical internet access points due to COVID-19 closures—including public libraries in addition to school sites—lack of reliable access to the internet has become an even more significant barrier to new distance learning expectations. In Aromas-San Juan Unified School District, 66% of the student population is considered to be of low socio-economic status.
The ‘Student WiFi Zone’ is an integral part of ENGIE’s Connectivity-as-a-Service offering, which can help to bridge the digital divide and provide reliable, long-distance learning solutions, especially as the future of distance learning needs continues to evolve. While the system can provide additional services in the future to help parents track buses and the district with fleet management, for now the system is tailored to address the needs of the student population. The ‘Student WiFi Zone’ is a secure installation capable of blocking inappropriate sites and optimizing access across multiple cellular providers.
The school district covers approximately 100 square miles in western San Benito County, northern Monterey County, and eastern Santa Cruz County, and serves K-12 students from three schools. The district includes the city of San Juan Bautista in San Benito County, the unincorporated community of Aromas in Monterey County, and other unincorporated areas in its three-county territory. ENGIE is a leader in providing renewable energy and energy efficiency services to K-12 school districts in California, having worked with more than 50 districts across the state. Icomera is the world’s leading provider of wireless Internet connectivity and application platforms for public transportation, committed to promoting green mobility.