When Ohio’s Stay At Home orders were put in place in March, schools were forced to adapt to online learning quickly. In Painesville, not only did teachers need to adjust their methods, but the district had to determine how to serve students without internet or computer access. Nearly 25% of students had no access to the internet or a computer, while another 15-20% could access schoolwork only through their parents’ mobile data plans.

The closure of schools and public libraries left many without options to continue learning. Lifeline, Inc, the Community Action Agency serving Lake and Geauga counties, quickly jumped into action with partners and the district to solve the problem. Following the district’s distribution of approximately 1,200 Chrome Books, school vans were equipped with WiFi Hotspots to allow students to log in, access schoolwork, and upload their homework.

“The whole statewide school closure has shined a bright light on the inequities among our communities that exist within our educational system,” stated Superintended Joshua Englehart, according to an article by WEWS News. “It means districts like ours have to do things very differently than our neighbors.”

Rotating across the district in parking lots and large low-income housing developments, the vans had a range of 500 feet and could support up to 100 devices simultaneously. Students could access the hotspot from their homes in some cases, or they were permitted to position themselves within range of the signal following physical distancing guidelines. Usage increased steadily as adjustments were made to reach more students, and an average of 78 users logged in daily using 156 GB of data.

“We were so proud to see those vans,” said Carrie Dotson, executive director at Lifeline, Inc. “It was great to know we played a part in helping our local kids continue to learn while staying safe at home.”

Community Action Agencies are continually developing new and innovative ways to help their communities both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Subscribe to our blog to stay up-to-date with stories from throughout the network.