Beebe School District partnered with Premier Wireless Business Technology Solutions, a leading technology company, to improve student performance by turning the district's 45 school buses into mobile classrooms using Premier's ConnectED Bus Solution.
The mobile classroom initiative stems from two high school athletes hearing about how other school districts had Wi-Fi on their buses, and their students were able to complete their homework on the way home from their games. They decided to find out how their school district could add Wi-Fi on their school buses so they could complete their homework on the ride home from school and from their games.
10th grader Jordyn Lefford and 11th grader Ethan Waters, and their teammates, can spend as much as six hours commuting to and from games. The two students say they often end up sleep-deprived and exhausted because they have homework to do when they get home after a game, yet they still have to get up early the next morning for class.
"I was thinking, what if we could do our homework on the bus on the way home so we wouldn't have to stay up that late, not just for me but for other athletes too," said Lefford.
After researching school bus Wi-Fi online, they contacted Premier Wireless via the website's online chat. It just so happened that the President & CEO, Lea Bogle, was the one to respond to the initial inquiry. For several weeks they intermittently communicated via Premier's online chat.
Ultimately, a Zoom meeting was scheduled for 11:15 a.m. one Monday morning. Bogle thought she was meeting with someone from the district's leadership team, but she wasn't.
"I was surprised when I joined the Zoom meeting and saw two teenagers and their bus driver, Joy Sykes. I'm used to meeting with district administrators and transportation directors about school bus Wi-Fi, but I had never heard directly from the students being impacted. Knowing that our ConnectED Bus solution could truly help these kids and this district was especially exciting. I wanted to make this happen for them. They deserved it," said Bogle.
During their meeting, Bogle was surprised at how well-prepared the students were and how they were able to answer all of her questions. After listening to them, she informed the teenagers about the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), a federal grant program that was available to their school specifically for off-campus connectivity.
The duo we're hopeful that their school superintendent, Chris Nail, would see the value of the district providing high-speed Wi-Fi access on their school buses.
They believed it would help improve academic performance for all students. Bogle and her team edited their Zoom meeting, made a 2-minute video, and gave it to the students so they could give it to their Superintendent to start the conversation about school bus Wi-Fi.
"We think it would benefit our district, and at some point, it would help our test scores go up because that's more time students can be studying and getting ready for their exams," said Waters.
After several months of advocacy efforts, Lefford and Waters were successful, and the district submitted their ECF application for free high-speed Wi-Fi on their buses. Finally, in December 2022, the district's ECF application was approved.
"We thought it was a great idea when they presented it to us. We want all our students to be successful, and we believe being connected is essential to be able to do that. We are proud of Jordan and Ethan's efforts, and we are excited about our partnership with Premier Wireless to bring Wi-Fi to our buses," said Scott Embrey, Assistant Superintendent of Beebe School District.
In addition to and from events, having bus Wi-Fi will allow all students to do homework, research, study, and access resources during their daily commutes to school, which average 30 minutes to an hour each way. Bus Wi-Fi will help close the digital divide by providing connectivity to students with limited or no internet access at home.
Internet connectivity on Beebe school buses also improves safety because the district will have real-time visibility of the cameras on the buses, which is critical if there is an emergency. Additionally, this system includes GPS enabling the district to locate a bus when it is on the road.
Lefford and Waters say they are happy that their efforts will make a difference for everyone.
Premier Wireless specializes in technology solutions that enable safety, innovation, communication, and transformation for school districts, government agencies, and non-profits across the country for nearly 30 years.
Premier's ConnectED Bus solution is the most cost-effective way to deliver off-campus internet access to all students, including those who are the most underserved in our nation. It provides extended learning time by providing students with internet access to complete homework, study, and do research while commuting to and from school, sporting events, and field trips. It decreases behavioral issues by providing students with something to do during their commute.
Simultaneously, it increases bus safety by providing real-time GPS and enabling real-time remote camera access to the bus's cameras. Premier's ConnectED Bus solution is fundable with Emergency Connectivity Funds (ECF) and other state and federal grants.
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