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Sumter County Schools: A Message on Wi-Fi Connections

By: Tracy K. Hall

Mike Wilson, Director of Technology for Sumter County Schools (SCS), reports 700 students do not have access to internet. He and his team have identified these students and have designed the “wi-fi bus” to be in the neighborhoods of these students. The SCS have been working with local churches and businesses to procure sites for the buses to be parked from 7am-7pm. These partnership locations will allow for greater parking for students who need to utilize the SCS wi-fi signal.

While the school system is trying to reach as many students as possible, families and students should not expect the signal to reach to each individual home. If there is no obstruction, the wi-fi signal will reach 100 yards. Mike and his team will be testing the proposed sites for connectivity and coverage to identify the best locations for the wi-fi buses to reach the greatest number of students. The goal, as Mike states it, is “to be as close to these people as we possibly can be, so they don’t have to drive all the way into town to use the internet.” When the schools were closed at the end of the 2019-20 school year, there were only 2 public use internet hotspots. SCS is looking to add 49 spots for their students. A list identifying these spots will be made public prior to the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. Americus Times-Recorder will update this article as soon as the information becomes available.  Once a student has identified and accessed a wi-fi connection, they will be responsible for setting up their workstation to meet their needs.

To access the school’s wi-fi spot, the student will be given a secure login. There are firewalls in place to protect the student from being exposed to inappropriate content.  The activity on the loaner Chromebooks will be tracked to ensure no prohibited content is being viewed. To allow for the connectivity of all students, access to wi-fi will be limited to students who are enrolled in our schools. If the wi-fi spot is used by unauthorized persons, students will experience difficulties while trying to do their school work.  With respect for the students and their education, SCS asks only the student and those aiding the student utilize the connection.

Students and their parent/guardian may receive their Chromebook by going to their school between August 10—13th, from the hours of 9am and 3pm.  A check-out form must be submitted by the parent and the student must be present to receive the Chromebook. Each student is allowed a Chromebook, each household is allowed as many Chromebooks as they have students in the school. The students are not required to share a computer. The check-out form can be found on the Sumter County Schools Facebook page and will also be available on the students’ school. Although reasonable wear and tear on the Chromebook is to be expected, unusual or heavy damages will result in being assessed a damage fee. Once the Chromebook is checked out, it is not required for return until the virtual learning mode is no longer in use.

Each teacher will also receive a laptop to utilize for his/her classroom. All the laptops are outfitted with webcams. Should the pandemic become such that the teacher must work from home, he or she is outfitted to do so by having these laptops available.

SCS has put much thought and work into making the virtual learning experience a rich one. As with anything new, there will be kinks to work out along the way. SCS, including the technology department, is prepared to assist in any way. If a student has a problem or question about the new technology, they are asked to let their teacher know first. The teacher will be able to direct the request to the correct staff. If a student can not reach their teacher, please contact their school via telephone to make a request of the technology department.