BELOIT—The School District of Beloit will be offering free WiFi for the community starting Tuesday evening.
The district has installed outdoor WiFi access points at every school and the Kolak Education Center allowing members of the community to access internet services from parking lots and most of the outdoor areas surrounding schools from 6 a.m.—10 p.m. daily, according to information from Executive Director of Business, Human Resources, and Operations Jo Ann Armtrong and TC Networks Account Manager Jake Slaback.
Families can access the WiFi from their vehicles in the parking lot or on the playground and do not need any kind of password. The offering not only will help with students’ online work and parents who may be seeking jobs or other resources, but will provide more opportunities for social connections. People can even pull up a blanket and enjoy their time online while socially distanced.
“With summer school being virtual we wanted to make sure people could take advantage of it sitting outside. With social distancing, we need to be able to get outside occasionally,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong noted the same filters blocking most social media sites as well as sites which have profane material will be blocked.
Armstrong said the district was boosting its signal inside of the buildings to offer some outside access, but there was a need for more internet access in light of online learning and the upcoming virtual summer school. Although the district had ordered some internet hot spots to give out to families, they were on back order and have not arrived yet.
“We are limited to what our suppliers can get us. We are working with US cellular to get hot spots, but they have not come in yet,” Armstrong said.
The order for more outside access was placed in May and was a bit delayed as more businesses and institutions are trying to offer outside access points during the pandemic.
“We started this process in early May to get these things in place so distance learning could operate seamlessly. Some could get in the parking lot, but it had to be close to the building. Now that will not be an issue,” Armstrong said.
The district also has served 130,537 meals to students at lunchtime since the schools closed.
The Beloit Public Library has had free WiFi access for patrons from its parking lot for several years.
“We keep our public WiFi turned on and accessible to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In fact, just last week, we upgraded our access points to extend our reach throughout the entire parking lot,” said Beloit Public Library Marketing and Communications Coordinator Amy Mitchell. “Access to wireless is a key barrier for many, so it’s a valuable service for libraries to provide the people of their communities—particularly in times when economies are experiencing recessions.”