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ASHVILLE – It’s called “WiFi on the Go,” and it’s going to lead St. Clair County school system students into the next phase of technology being used throughout schools.

Stage 2 of a 1:1 technology initiative was approved recently by the St. Clair County Board of Education. Superintendent Mike Howard said this portion of the initiative will provide “WiFi on the Go” for all students and employees.

To do this, the school board partnered with Leanstream to work with T-Mobile to provide wireless Internet wherever students go.

“This is a government plan, and it costs $50 per month per device,” Howard said. “The cost will not increase. It is unlimited data. 

“I am excited about this because if we eventually are truly going to 1:1 with each of the students and send devices home, the students will need that Internet access at home so they can work on laptops. Now that we have found Leanstream, this is a big step moving forward.” 

Stage 1 of the technology initiative was approved in June by the BOE, and it allows all students in each of the system’s five high schools to have a laptop of their own when they enter the school each day. The system purchased 3,000 laptops using money from the Advancement and Technology Fund (ATF). Howard said students will be able to take those computers home once this system has enough for all students in grades 7-12. 

Howard said the Wi-Fi program is open to current students, and all they need is a student ID to purchase the Wi-Fi device. He said this is a tax deduction because the money is a donation to the school system of $50 per month. Donations are made through PayPal.

Leanstream works with about 15 different school systems throughout Alabama.

BOE member Mike Hobbs said he liked the fact that the school system receives $12 back out of every $50 paid.

“I also like that if a student or parent wants to stop using it, they should just mail the device back, and the school system is not punished by Leanstream if the parents do not mail the device back,” Hobbs said.

Technology Director Russ Stewart said this is just a month-to-month contract for the parents, and they can cancel at the end of any month.

“The families that purchase these devices are not tied into a multi-year contract,” Stewart said. “If parents are not happy and this is not working for them, they can just turn it in. But I really think they will be happy.”

Reach Gary Hanner at ghanner@thestclairtimes.com.

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