Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey awarded $48 million to the State Department of Education in response to COVID-19 challenges, with nearly a fifth of the money going to equip all school buses statewide with internet service to address student remote learning needs.
Earlier this month, Ivey announced the award from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF), to help county school systems to enact policies established under the department’s Roadmap to Reopening.
In addition to the $10 million for purchasing and installing Wi-Fi routers in school buses, GEERF is providing $26 million for additional academic support to bridge learning and achievement gaps, $9 million to support intensive before- and after-school tutoring resources for learning and remediation in schools, and $4 million to improve remote learning opportunities by providing digital textbook and library resources for all students.
It was not immediately known if the school bus Wi-Fi funds will be made available in a single statewide purchase, or if money will be distributed to individual school districts. School Transportation News reached out to the state department of education for more information but had not heard back at this writing.
Michael Flood, a member of the board of directors for the Consortium for School Networking, indicated that his early inquiries lead him to believe that school districts will receive the money directly to make independent purchases.
Flood is also the vice president of strategy for Kajeet, a company that provides Wi-Fi routers and hotspots to school districts. He noted the money being allocated is sufficient enough to equip the over 7,200 school buses in the state with Wi-Fi capabilities. However, he noted, questions remain. For example, what type of Wi-Fi services, hardware and installation would ALSDE want to see?
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Another factor Flood mentioned was the timetable to purchase and install all the equipment. He said equipping all the buses in the state with Wi-Fi routes by the time schools start is a huge task.
“I think the real question here is, how quickly do they make a decision on whether it’s a state purchase or district by district?” he said. “And then, whenever they make that decision, you have to actually schedule all the equipment being shipped, the logistics and the installation.”