Google invests in local school, creates ‘rolling study halls’

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COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. (KSNT) – A Kansas school is trying to make bus rides more productive for students.

Every day, up to 165 students at Council Grove Junior High and High School can now access the internet on four buses thanks to tech-giant Google.

Buses haven’t always been a great place to get things accomplished in Council Grove.

“Usually I sit down, talk to friends, not much,” said Ace Monihen, a seventh-grader at Council Grove Junior High.

But now for students like Ace, they have the opportunity to work on school assignments.

“It’s going to be pretty nice, just sit down, do your homework before you get home,” he said.

This will be Google’s 15th partnership in the nation and the first in Kansas.

They provide Chromebook computers, WiFi equipment, and even a tutor on each bus.

“You have these students with really long bus commutes and you equip them with all the tools they need to be really successful in school,” explained Alex Sanchez, program manager for Google’s Rolling Study Halls.

“This is something where students can do homework help, they’ll be able to get help from their onboard educator, and we see this as an interesting way to re-frame what is now travel time and really reclaim it as learning time,” Sanchez said.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman and native Kansan Ajit Pai said it’s important for students in rural communities to be connected. Pai said he can relate from his time as a kid in parsons.

“It would take sometimes an hour to get home and sometimes I wondered what was I doing during that hour, well I can tell you I wasn’t doing homework,” said Pai.

“Thanks in part to this WiFi initiative, the Rolling Study Hall could be a literal study hall for these kids, and to have that digital connection is going to be really important for them,” Pai said.

The district’s superintendent Aron Dody believes the effects from the buses will be wide-ranging.

“I think we’ll see our academic success rise of our students, but I also think we’ll see less discipline problems on the bus, because our kids are going to be engaged instead of sitting there getting bored, getting into mischief,” he said.

“I think we’ll see our student’s health habits increase,” Dody said. “So now they can go home, eat supper, and do their chores and go to bed at a more reasonable hour.”

When the program ends after the school year, the school gets to keep all of the equipment and Chromebooks that Google has provided, all at no cost to Council Grove.

With the partnership, it allowed the district to meet a goal it set to provide a laptop for all junior high and high school students in the district to be able to take home.

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