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.
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
JUNIPER CANYON BAPTIST CHURCH 10:00 AM – 1:00 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