'Smart bus' to provide internet to students living in motels along Highway 192

Project will come kick off by mid-January

Osceola County Schools is using grant money to turn a spare school bus into a mobile computer lab that will provide homeless students with better internet access.

Osceola County Schools is using grant money to turn a spare school bus into a mobile computer lab that will provide students living in motels with better internet access.

The $40,000 renovation project will come equipped with 11 computer stations and high-speed internet service when it launches by mid-January 2020 and begins making stops at hotels and motels along U.S. 1-92, which the district identified as where most homeless students are living.

The pilot program will run through May and make stops at four different hotels Monday through Thursday.

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"I think (students are) going to come, be excited about being on the bus, getting some assistance with their homework," said Leslie Campbell, the director of special programs at Osceola County Schools who is overseeing the program.

Some motels have limited internet access and even if they do have internet access, students may not be able to afford a computer, Campbell said. With more classroom assignments and college applications going digital, that represents a challenge.

Two students created the first bus for a project, then donated it to the district. But when it didn't meet all the guidelines for roads, the district utilized one of its own buses to keep the project going.

About 500 students are living in motels and are considered homeless, according to the district.

Cassondra Buchanan said her daughter is among them. While she's not doing homework on a computer yet, she knows other parents with students who are.

"I think it's very helpful, and I'm glad that they're doing it," Buchanan said. "I'm sure the kids will like it, too."

Staff will be on the bus to help students and also provide them with food.