WiFi on wheels

BOCES bus hits high gear on the internet

By TED WADDELL
Posted 2/17/21

LIBERTY, NY — “Working with my hands is pretty cool, and I did something for the community,” said 16-year-old Tim Dirie, a junior at Liberty High School and first-year student in …

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WiFi on wheels

BOCES bus hits high gear on the internet

Posted

LIBERTY, NY — “Working with my hands is pretty cool, and I did something for the community,” said 16-year-old Tim Dirie, a junior at Liberty High School and first-year student in the Sullivan County BOCES career and technical education (CTE) program.

Dirie, along with several other BOCES students, were instrumental in converting an old school bus into a mobile classroom outfitted with computer stations so that kids without dependable internet access can complete homework assignments and research projects. The bus has six work stations keeping students social distanced. 

As part of the student crew who worked on the conversion process, Dirie helped fabricate and weld together steel frames for the desktop workstations, which are used to support laptop computers.

“It gave us a chance to work together and gave us something to do in an actual program, and that’s really cool,” he said of the project.

The innovative idea for converting an old school bus into a mobile and socially distanced classroom on wheels was in response to the pandemic, which forced many students into remote-learning situations. Compounding the problem faced by many students in rural areas is the lack of broadband service, spotty connections, a scarcity of hotspots and, in many cases, the inability to travel to locations where internet access is available. Therefore, the project was deemed imperative.

To make the dream of remote learning possible for a lot of local kids, a grassroots partnership of NYS Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, Sullivan County BOCES, Rolling V Bus Corporation and Sullivan 180 was established, and the project was nicknamed “WiFi on Wheels.” 

According to Gunther, the partnership “is a fantastic example of how we can work together to provide innovative and vital services to the students of Sullivan County. Thanks to the mobile classroom, students throughout the county will be able to access high-speed internet to help them learn remotely as we make our way through the pandemic.”

The newly adapted schoolbus was provided by Rolling V Bus Corporation, headed by CEO Phil Vallone. BOCES CTE students helped with the conversion, and Gunther’s office kicked in $7,000 to assist in funding the endeavor. According to a press release issued by BOCES, Vallone said, “This bus will provide an educational haven for students who may have nowhere else to turn to gain online access to their classes and studies.” 

Future plans for the “WiFi on Wheels” include continued access to local schools and community organizations, including Sullivan 180, a nonprofit group with the stated mission of improving the health and well-being of the county; the Center for Workforce Development; Cornell Cooperative Extension; Sullivan Allies Leading Together (SALT); and Sullivan Renaissance. At the moment, Liberty Central School District has signed up to use the mobile classroom. Every district can sign up to use the bus. It is not grade specific.

The mobile classroom was introduced to the public at a press conference conducted in front of the Liberty Middle School on February 10.

For more information, contact Sullivan BOCES at 845/295-4043 or email communications@scboces.org.

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