Google unveils rolling study halls with Wi-Fi-equipped buses in Colorado

DEER TRAIL, Colo -- Students in the Deer Trail 26J school district will now be able to use their computers on the bus. The school district partnered with Google and Senator Cory Gardner’s office to unveil a new rolling study hall initiative.

“We can make this a really great educational experience for them so that when they get home they have more time to spend with their families and their friends and catch up on some additional work. That makes this really concentrated educational time as opposed to just time where they are sitting on a bus,” said Susan Molinari, the Vice President of Policy for America for Google.

The school buses now have Wi-Fi hotspots so that the students can do their homework or study while heading home. Along with the buses, students will also be given Chromebook laptops to use for their school work.

“The average bus ride in Deer Trail is between 40 and 110 minutes. That’s nearly 2 hours one way for some of these kids to coming to school. They’re going to have tutoring on these buses. This is part of their nationwide and initiative to continue their connected learning experience,” said U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

He is working with Google on the project and comes from rural Colorado himself. Gardner says he knows how hard it can be on a student to spend hours on the bus each day and this is a way to make that time more useful.

“One of the other things that need he hasn’t been discussed at this moment is it’s not just to and from school. Maybe it’s to and from the basketball game or from the track meet. When I was a kid we spent probably six or eight hours a week just going to and from sports activities because the nearest school we play was about 45 minutes away,” Gardner said.

The initiative was already rolled out in parts of North Carolina where kids had an hour-and-a-half commute one way in some instances. Google says it’s already seen positive results.

“What we saw when we did this in North Carolina is that test grades went and one teacher saw even more importantly is that the students came back more engaged more challenged and feeling more confident because of just those few extra hours,” Molinari said.

This is just one of several Colorado school districts that will unveil rolling study halls in coming weeks. Along with Deer Trail District 26J, the Julesburg School District, Lone Star School District and Karval School District will feature these high-tech buses.

These districts were chosen because of how rural they are, how long the average bus ride is for students and the fact that many don’t have access to high-speed internet at home.

Molinari says she hopes this will help close the education gap.

“We are going to be able form at these amazing partnerships to give some of these kids that only a level playing field but in fact a head start,” she said.

The buses and vans at Deer Trail rolled out Monday morning. The rest will roll out in coming weeks.

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