Temecula and RTA team up to provide Wi-Fi for students in need

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Riverside Transit Agency buses in Temecula will park and provide Wi-Fi hotspots for students in need of internet connection for distance learning. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

Emily Schwank

Intern

Internet connection will be brought to parks in Temecula and expanded through the valley in October, thanks to the city of Temecula and the Riverside Transit Agency.

The Temecula Community Services Department has created a system of outdoor Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the city. They will host these hot spots at Rotary Park, Margarita Community Park, and the Amphitheatre at the Community Recreation Center for students to do their schoolwork.

“When we found out that schools were going to be going to remote learning this fall, we were concerned about the impact that would have on kids who don’t have the same resources as others,” Erica Russo, assistant director of Community Services, said. “Online learning has a lot of advantages but it can also deepen the digital divide.”

She said the department was concerned about bridging the digital divide and how the uneven distribution of electronic devices and internet access would impact students.

“Bridging the digital divide has always been one of my passion projects. We live in a world where access to technology can have a direct impact on the outcome of your life,” Paula Crowell, IT manager for Temecula, said. “As a public servant I am always looking for ways to make technology available to all.”

The department reached out to the Temecula Valley Unified School District to understand the student’s needs.

“We are going to aim at roughly 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., the idea being that will be enough to help kids looking to do homework and families who need school support,” Russo said.

“When the need was expressed, making the Wi-Fi gardens an extension of the current system was a natural solution. For example, for Rotary Park, it extended the Wi-Fi network from the Temecula Community Center. This allows the city to leverage existing infrastructure to provide an increased amenity to the public,” Crowell said.

The Riverside Transit Agency is adopting a similar plan. They will be partnering with school districts and driving busses with built-in Wi-Fi to students in need, as many of their commuter busses already have Wi-Fi installed. School districts will use RTA busses to host the Wi-Fi hot spot. RTA will provide the bus Mondays and provided there is a safe place to park it, the agency will drive it back to the lot Fridays.

“The end goal is helping our students. This is another way for RTA to assist the community, and since we have the busses available it’s a great way to pivot,” Bridgette Moore, RTA chairwoman, said.

Emily Schwank can be reached by email at valleystaff@reedermedia.com.