HUSD outlines ways it is ensuring Wi-Fi and Internet access for online learning
HEMET, Calif. — With the Covid-19 pandemic and public health crisis heading into its six month and school-aged children beginning a whole new way of online learning, schools across the nation have been scrambling to find new and innovative ways to provide quality, Internet-based educational access to their students.
As schools slowly continue to re-open with never before addressed restrictions due to social distancing and other health and safety concerns, and as Hemet Unified School District transitioned to online learning for its nearly 22,000 students spread across 650 square miles, its staff quickly recognized their situation was unique.
As the 2020-2021 school year recently began, district officials also realized they needed to address the challenges related to accessibility for families in the more remote and rural areas the district serves.
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“Each community is different and what worked for one didn’t necessarily work for the other, so staff had to remain flexible and creative to provide solutions” HUSD spokeswoman Alexandrea Sponheim told RCNS today.
“Hemet Unified School District is unique in that it not only serves students in the Hemet and San Jacinto Valley, but also serves students that reside in more rural, outlying areas such as Aguanga, Anza, and Idyllwild,” Sponheim explained.
In addition to ensuring students throughout the Anza valley have reliable Internet access for their ongoing educational needs, HUSD has placed two Wi-Fi equipped buses in the mountain community of Idyllwild to serve students. HUSD photo
Needing to come up with new and innovative solutions to provide Internet-based learning for all its students, HUSD officials partnered both with Hemet and San Jacinto valley entities as well as entities in those outlying, more rural areas to provide Wi-Fi and Internet access as well as places where families could access the internet to engage in online learning.
Although staff procured hotspots from multiple area entities to provide greater coverage for families in need, District officials soon learned that hotspots were not always available or reliable in the more rural communities the district serves.
To better serve those students in HUSD’s remote areas, District officials came up with several ways to help with Internet accessibility to children whose parents were not able to provide stable, consistent access to online learning.
While outlining some of the steps the district has already taken, Sponheim explained that HUSD is offering two buses for the mountain community of Idyllwild that are now providing free Wi-Fi signal so students can have better, more reliable access to the Internet.
The first bus can be found parked at the Idyllwild Community Playground, while the other has been set up at a local camp called Camp Maranatha.
To ensure that students are able to engage in online learning, the buses are there providing Wi-Fi and Internet access from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays; and from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
To better serve Anza students, HUSD relied on its partnership with the Anza community and children are now able to use the Anza Community Center for Internet access to allow them to study and participate in their online classes and learning activities.
Additionally, to help students in Aguanga, families in that community are now able to access the Internet at Cottonwood Park, thanks to HUSD’s partnership with Valley-Wide Recreation.
“The logistics of providing Wi-Fi access was done through the tenacity of HUSD’s technology team by placing an outdoor antenna under the gazebo,” explained Sonheim; saying, “Staff set up a point-to-point wireless feed from the library to the gazebo which then feeds to the access point providing access to those in the vicinity.”
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“The HUSD staff is dedicated to our students and ensuring a successful 2020-21 school year,” HUSD Superintendent Dr. Christi Barrett said of the district’s unique and innovative approach to handling its students’ needs.
“Throughout this process, HUSD continues to listen to feedback from families and determine ways we can better serve students,” Barrett continued. “These are unprecedented times we are living in, but we are fortunate to serve communities that are willing to partner with us as we continue to provide quality education to our nearly 22,000 students.”
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Trevor Montgomery, 48, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, (the now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 29 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 16 grandchildren.