The Wheels on the Bus Bring WiFi and Lunches


Crook County School District mobilizes bus routes to serve students with meals and internet for distance learning

PRINEVILLE – Some 3,100 school students live in communities and the rugged high desert in Central Oregon’s Crook County, where there’s an abundance of juniper and breathtaking views…but not abundant access to home internet.

With schools shuttered to help control the spread of the Coronavirus, the Crook County School District is innovating to meet the challenge of keeping students connected so they can complete their assigned classwork. How? Deploying school buses to provide mobile wireless hotspots for the students.

On a regular schedule each weekday, buses park at stores and churches in the unincorporated communities of Powell Butte and Juniper Canyon, and in several locations around the county seat of Prineville, offering internet access to students who park nearby in family cars or sit in portable chairs.

“We are really centered on customer service, and that doesn’t just mean customer service just in good times, when it is easy to figure out,” said district superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson. “Our team has worked really hard to serve students, and the community has been remarkable.”

In addition to bringing wireless connectivity to families, the buses also take lunches to the students. About half the students in the district qualify for free or reduced lunches, Johnson said.

wifi bus

Crook County school facilities are already wireless hotspots, but not everybody lives near a school in the district, which covers about 3,000 square miles.

The district has two Prineville elementary schools, two rural K-8 schools and a middle school, high school and alternative high school in Prineville. One of the K-8 schools is in a one-room schoolhouse in the tiny community of Brothers, located 40 miles east of Bend.

The district previously installed wireless transmitters on two buses so that students could do homework on long bus rides, Johnson said.

Soon, however, the entire fleet of 30 buses will be outfitted, thanks to the generosity of local donors, most notably Facebook, which operates a sprawling server farm near the local airport, atop the rimrock canyon that overlooks Prineville, she said. The company also donated computers for students and is paying monthly charges for the wi-fi access, Johnson said.

With more buses equipped, the district will be able to offer wifi at more locations and for longer hours.

Students are provided login codes to use the wifi service. Kids do not sit on the buses, so they can maintain safe social distancing under the governor’s “Stay Home Save Lives” directive.

Gov. Kate Brown said the state prioritizes the successful education of every student, and that leaders are heartened to see the diligence of rural administrators and teachers – as well as the generosity of many businesses – to ensure high quality learning keeps happening, regardless of a student’s ZIP code.

“Statewide, Oregon students are overcoming so many challenges at this unprecedented time,” Gov. Brown said. “All of us can be proud to see that educators are doing everything they can to help students succeed, and in places like Crook County, they are literally going the extra mile.”

Looking for Wifi in Crook County? Below is the schedule.


POWELL BUTTE SCHOOL                       11:20 AM – 11:30 AM        LUNCH

JUNIPER ACRES                                    12:00 PM – 12:10 PM        LUNCH

POWELL BUTTE STORE                          10:00 AM – 12:00 PM        WIFI

HOV STAGING AREA                              12:30 PM – 2:30 PM         WIFI     


JUNIPER GROVE RV PARK                     12:00 PM – 12:10 PM        LUNCH

CAYUSE AT MAILBOXES                         12:20 PM – 12:30 PM        LUNCH

REMINGTON AT MAILBOXES                   12:40 PM – 12:50 PM        LUNCH

HILLTOP RD AT MAILBOXES                   1:00 PM – 1:10 PM           LUNCH

RICHI’S PLACE                                      11:00 AM – 1:30 PM         LUNCH

RICHI’S PLACE                                      11:00 AM – 2:00 PM         WIFI



WETLANDS PARKING LOT                      11:20 AM – 11:30 AM        LUNCH

END OF SW PARK DR                             11:40 AM – 11:50 AM        LUNCH

OCHOCO SCHOOL CROSSING                12:00 PM – 12:10 PM        LUNCH

NW 10TH AND NW HARWOOD                 12:05 PM – 12:15 PM        LUNCH

WESTERN SKY                                      12:15 PM – 12:25 PM        LUNCH

OCHOCO WEST                                     12:40 PM – 12:50 PM        LUNCH

WETLANDS PARKING LOT                      11:30 AM – 2:30 PM         WIFI


RIDGEVIEW COMMONS                          12:00 PM – 12:10 PM        LUNCH

CRYSTAL CORRAL RV PARK                   12:20 PM – 12:30 PM        LUNCH

LAKESHORE RV PARK                            12:40 PM -12:50 PM        LUNCH 


MARIPOSA AND LARRY CT                     12:25 PM – 12:35 PM        LUNCH

YELLOWPINE PARK                               12:40 PM – 12:50 PM        LUNCH

3050 N MAIN ST (MIDDLE DRIVEWAY)      1:00 PM – 1:10 PM           LUNCH


PIONEER SOUTH (E 1ST ST)                     12:00 PM – 1:00 PM         LUNCH

PIONEER NORTH (NE 3RD ST)                  12:30 PM – 3:30 PM         WIFI

BARNES BUTTE ELEMENTARY                24 HOURS                     WIFI

CROOKED RIVER ELEMENTARY              24 HOURS                     WIFI

CROOK COUNTY MIDDLE SCHOOL          24 HOURS                     WIFI


SE LINCOLN RD AT S STANTON RD         11:35 AM – 11:45 AM        LUNCH

LOS ARBOLÉS TRAILER PARK                11:45 AM – 11:55 AM        LUNCH

CROOK COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL              24 HOURS                     WIFI

About Author

James Sinks is the Financial Education Program Manager with the State Treasury

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