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School buses to get Wi-Fi, GPS

KOKOMO, Ind. – Students in a north-central Indiana school district soon will be able to do their homework on the school bus, even it requires them to do research online.

Kokomo-Center Schools plans to equip all 65 of its school buses with wireless Internet access by the end of the school year. The plan is part of nearly $200,000 in transportation upgrades that also include a GPS tracking system for all 65 district buses. Installing the Internet service will cost $125,000, and annual service rates are $5,000, district spokesman Dave Barnes said Wednesday. Most of that annual fee is covered by a federal grant, he said.

District operations director Mike Wade told the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/Yrlv8U) that Wi-Fi will especially help students involved in extra-curricular activities like sports and marching band, giving them access to the Internet as they travel to and from competitive events.

“This is huge,” Wade said. “I remember as a coach, driving 2 1/2 hours to Richmond. If I could have done my work, that would have been great.”

Barnes said some homework must be done on a computer. “If I have an essay or a paper to do, I need a computer for that,” Barnes said.

While students might be tempted to surf the Web instead of doing their homework, their access to the Internet will be limited by the district’s network, which doesn’t allow access to social networking and other sites that may be unrelated to school, Barnes said.

The district plans for every high school student to have a laptop within three years. Freshmen already have theirs, Barnes said.

The planned upgrades also include GPS on every bus, which will allow parents and school officials to track buses along their routes, the Tribune reported. The GPS technology will cost $60,000 initially and $25,000 a year after that.

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