Some Iowa school districts have deployed Wi-Fi hotspots in their communities to make internet access more equitable while schools are closed.

Sioux City students have been doing voluntary learning from home. With that, Superintendent Paul Gausman says COVID-19 has put a magnifying glass over some of the biggest inequities in education, which includes connectivity. Gausman says, “I don’t think people understand how large a number actually don’t have internet connectivity as a regular component of their daily lives.”

He estimates 20% of the school district’s students don’t have regular access to the internet. The district recently started sending school buses and vans equipped with Wi-Fi to six mobile home parks and apartments. The vehicles stay there for three hours a day, Monday through Friday.

“You would need to get near the vehicle that is a Wi-Fi hotspot so that you could get into the internet, download the things you need to, go back and work on them, bring them back, and for some reason if you need to upload something back,” Gausman says. “That’s how we’re making that system work.”

The school district also boosted the signal at seven school buildings so students can access Wi-Fi from the school parking lots. Those are accessible 24/7.

(By Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio)