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Helping Students Balance School & Responsibilities at Home

1.4 million children in the US have a responsibility as a student caregiver in their households and up to 22% of students drop out of high school to fulfill their caregiving duties. How do we help these students balance their caregiving duties and schoolwork?

According to the Amalgamated Transit Union, an estimated 55% of K-12 students rely on the school bus for everyday transportation. For rural students who deal with longer bus rides up to 90 minutes, this is valuable time taken away from their productive hours. Vulnerable student populations like low-income students, students of immigrant families and rural students who face longer travel times all need a way to reclaim their time to focus on school. This extra time could especially benefit low-income students who face more challenges at home than their non-low-income peers. Bus wi-fi and internet connectivity allows students to utilize this time to their advantage and even provides a mobile study hall.

Providing Equity for Low-Income Students

Data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) shows that low-income students spend less time on homework than their non-low-income peers. What could cause this gap and how can we fill it? Although they manage to keep the gap small, they sacrifice leisure time to do so. Unlike their non-low-income counterparts, they do not have the luxury of enjoying a healthy social life and leisure time without taking time away from their responsibilities. This may not sound like a dire need; however, this increases students’ stress levels and leaves them less focused.

Time pressure can make an impact in stress management and affect productivity by volume and quality. Even adults have difficulties managing stress and productivity when time pressure is applied as shown in a study from Frontiers in Public Health. If adults face these issues, then certainly minors who are less experienced in the world will also struggle with time pressure. Although the school system may not be able to alleviate a student’s stress and responsibilities at home, they can provide resources that could help low-income students while they are on school property such as a school bus.

Supporting Student Workers

Around 17.5 million students are employed, within that group are a number of students who use that additional income to support their families. Unlike their peers, they are responsible for contributing to the financial stability of their family. Low-income students do not always have the luxury of taking time off to focus on studies. Since the start of the pandemic from 2020 to now, approximately 43% of American adults have reported a loss of household income. This has influenced some students to take on additional work responsibilities to maintain their household. According to the Pew Research Center, this loss has mostly impacted lower-income families. The side effects from this action have led to less time for students to focus on their studies. Low-income students who work are under an elevated time pressure and only have limited hours to focus on their studies. Bus wi-fi would allow working students more time to focus on their studies and balance their workload.

Assisting Student Caregivers

Students who go home to high stress environments and carry most of the household responsibilities benefit the most from having a workspace where they can get help from fellow students. Caregiving youth are a portion of the student population that face added responsibilities of caring for a family member. This may not sound like a large population, but based on data from the American Psychological Association Annual Convention, there are 1.4 million students between the ages of 8 and 18 that classify as caregiving youth. More importantly, an estimated 22% of high school students who dropped out were student caregivers according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For these students, bus Wi-Fi is a valuable resource that can determine their ability to complete primary and secondary education. Caregiving is by far a difficult commitment for anyone to make, let alone a minor who is still trying to learn about the world, themselves and their place in it. Having access to a mobile study hall can help to reduce their stress and potentially improve their ability to move beyond their current socioeconomic status.

Translating Travel Time into Productive Time

Another population of students who would greatly benefit from bus wi-fi are students of immigrant parents who are responsible for translating important documents, phone calls and more. Student translators are burdened with loss of time compared with their non-translating peers. They can’t be expected to complete up to 3.5 hours of homework when they must spend some of those hours translating a call to a doctor’s office, or helping their parents pay the electric bill. These students deserve a space for themselves to just focus on homework, studying and more. School bus wi-fi could help close any educational gaps they may face.

Reducing Behavioral Issues

Not only does bus wi-fi improve productivity, it also can improve behavioral patterns while on the school bus. School bus drivers already have a difficult job of safely transporting children across town without incident. This job is only exacerbated by students who may be bored because they have nothing else to occupy their time.

According to a NY Times article, Empire High School students were quieter and more controlled when they used their devices on the bus. Reducing behavioral problems can cut down on disciplinary action and shift the focus to increased productivity. This is perfect for students who engage in extracurricular activities who spend even more hours on the school bus. Teachers and coaches who escort these students can manage the students a little easier by enforcing study hall rules or giving them an interactive, non-disruptive activity to focus on. This would leave fewer behavioral incidents to report.

Leveraging Special Programs

The amount of homework assigned to K-12 students can vary depending on the type of programs offered at their school. On average, students enrolled in advanced academic programs are assigned 9.1 hours of homework every week. Special programs may include Advanced Placement (AP) courses or the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. These programs offer challenging coursework and can place the student ahead of their peers for higher education. Students may qualify to participate in these special programs, but if reliable internet connectivity is not available at home or they cannot effectively manage their time to balance schoolwork and household responsibilities, they simply cannot take advantage of these opportunities.

Extracurricular activities are estimated to consume up to 7.9 hours per week of an adolescent’s time. This statistic is troubling considering adolescents are also estimated to spend 9.1 hours a week on homework. That is already 17 hours of outside of regular school hours per week that is owned by school obligations and duties. Students who participate in extracurriculars may find themselves spending more time on the school bus, especially student athletes. Seven out of ten parents say their school aged kids participate in sports according to the Pew Research Center. Sports team coaches and staff responsible for escorting student athletes to various games can now utilize this time for pre-game prep or allow students to focus on their studies. Either way, mobile study halls help to utilize lost time and can manage the behavior and limit behavioral incidents of students according to the NY Times. Any extra time that can be used to their advantage is crucial towards maintaining that healthy school/home life balance.

For some students, school may be the most routine part of their lives where they can feel secure and focus on one thing at a time, their education. A chaotic home life possibly due to caregiving responsibilities, additional household duties or part time jobs can disrupt a student’s ability to manage their school workload. Even if the student were able to find time at home to focus on their homework, they may be in a loud household with multiple other children or have arguing parents/caretakers that create that stressful environment. Bus wi-fi can give vulnerable students a temporary reprieve and allow them to focus on their studies without the overwhelming burden of other duties and responsibilities staring them in the face. Providing access to a mobile study hall can increase student engagement with their coursework and improve graduation rates.

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