Despite seeming to be covered, parts of Pasco County remain internet deserts. That’s hindered dozens of students from regularly connecting with their teachers and keeping up with their distance learning — even if they have borrowed district devices.
The school district wants to help bridge the digital divide.
Beginning Wednesday, the district will place buses equipped with Wi-Fi boosters in the parking lots of five schools from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., to provide community internet access. The locations are:
• Lacoochee Elementary School at 38815 Cummer Road in Dade City
• Woodland Elementary School at 38203 Henry Drive in Zephyrhills
• Cotee River Elementary School at 7515 Plathe Road in New Port Richey
• Rodney B Cox Elementary School 37615 Martin Luther King Boulevard in Dade City
• Pasco Elementary School at 37350 Florida Avenue in Dade City
This action comes as the system also has ordered individual Mi-Fi receivers to help families bring the internet into their homes.
“We did get some hotspots, but not as many as we needed,” district spokesman Steve Hegarty said. “That’s why we’re going to the hubs.”
Each site will be clearly marked with the access information displayed. The district asks that users follow social distancing guidelines. They also suggest fully charging devices before arriving, because power sources will not be available.
Pasco is not alone in dealing with this concern. Other districts with rural areas, such as Leon and Marion counties, also have sent buses into communities to provide internet service.
The Pinellas and Hillsborough districts have focused on providing personal Mi-Fi support, to boost access in the homes. Hillsborough has distributed about 1,500 such devices.
Pasco’s service will continue five days a week until the second week of June, when it will scale back to four days a week, eliminating Fridays.
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