N.Y. High School Offers Wi-Fi on School Buses

A sophomore at Watkins Glen High School can use the 45-minute bus ride to her rural home to do her schoolwork with her own personal device. The quarterback of the high school’s football team can complete his assignments on his hour and a half journey to a game at a neighboring school.

In March, the Watkins Glen (N.Y.) School District furnished its 18 buses with Wi-Fi access. Students involved in Watkins Glen High School’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program use their bus rides home, which can last up to 45 minutes, to do homework.

According to school district Superintendent Tom Phillips, about 20 percent of students in the area come from rural homes that have little or no Internet connection. The BYOD program allows students who may not have Wi-Fi at home to bring a device to school in order to use the Internet to complete schoolwork.

The village of Watkins Glen is home to about 18,500 people, a nationally ranked public park, and a NASCAR track. Phillips said the goal is to provide all students with the ability to use the Internet to research school material, no matter how remote their homes may be.

“It’s a beautiful little area, but once you get out of the village, you’re in God’s country,” Phillips said. “The issue is not only homework, but the ability to access resources that can help them develop deeper understanding of whatever subject they’re studying. It’s really about providing equal access to a more rich understanding and breadth of resources.”

The implications of increased Wi-Fi extend beyond providing access for students who may have none at home. While the BYOD program is restricted to high school kids, younger students can also benefit from the connection. Teachers can bring carts supplied with laptops on field trips. Popular destinations for Watkins Glen schoolchildren include Mark Twain’s home in Elmira, the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, and the bird sanctuary in Montezuma. Once classes begin, students can use the laptops on or near the buses to do online exercises regarding the field trip destination.

“We’ve now extended the classroom to the bus,” Phillips said.

Student athletes, in addition to students without Wi-Fi at home, can also benefit from the buses’ connection. According to Melanie Chandler, director of technology for the Watkins Glen School District, the high school’s varsity football and cross-country teams travel up to two hours to compete against other schools. On nights when they have games or meets, bus rides are the only time they can do homework unless they want to stay up until the wee hours of the morning.

One of the questions that arises from Wi-Fi access for students is how they spend their time with the connection. While students who bring their own devices could be looking up trigonometry equations, they could also be streaming episodes of The Office. Chandler said the school fully monitors what students are doing online and that administrators have the ability to block certain sites that may be inappropriate for teens.

While furnishing buses with Wi-Fi marks a big technological advancement, Phillips said the administrators’ work is far from over. He said they will monitor Internet use throughout the upcoming school year, and are also working on a way to establish better connection in rural homes.

One possible solution is for bus drivers, who live throughout the county, to drive their buses home at the end of the day. The buses themselves act as Wi-Fi hotspots, and can offer nearby homes Internet connection.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I think we’re on to something,” Phillips said.



  1. Anonymous | - Reply
    Well, For those advocating population control agendas, wifi on buses and schools is the perfect tool to microwave our kids into sterility. There are now over a dozen peer reviewed studies that confirm sperm damage from using a lap top and especially a tablet which is far worse than a cell phone. Does anybody ever look into the safety information and also read the safety information that comes with your cell phone and tablet. It says "not to keep the device next to your body" The FCC's own head of criminal and racketeering department is not going to unleash 5G on us as "fast as they can" so that health and safety concerns can not be addressed. The FCC is little more than a crime syndicate acting on behalf of their employers, the telecommunications industry. Do a little research and check this website for more information. http://www.wirelesswatchblog.org and check the wifi in schools section. DON'T INSTALL WIFI ON BUSSES AND GET IT OUT OF SCHOOLS. Over 60- international agencies, organizations, governments and hundreds of scientists world wide are working on informing the public and law makers about this but the media is owned by industry and our kids are being swept under the bus for industry profits and military surveillance agendas.
  2. Anonymous | - Reply
    to anonymous: do you live in a big city. If so, please come and stay in Watkins Glen for a week or two. Enjoy the lake and the falls. But please take a 1 hr drive over the rural roads every AM and PM, along with doing farm chores and help the family with dinner prep. And you have a brother who is playing football so you have to go back into town for a game tonight, a Tuesday night. Repeat with the 2nd week you are in town. We need more student doing good in math and science. This is a great way to use 2 to 4 hrs of time to study or do research. Donna F.

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