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Port Byron deploys buses with internet to help students amid COVID-19 closures
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Port Byron deploys buses with internet to help students amid COVID-19 closures

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The Port Byron Central School District has a way to help families without internet at home while school is closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district and the other schools within the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES closed earlier this month after Cayuga County declared a state of emergency due to the new cornavirus. On Wednesday, the Port Byron district experimented with having one of its buses, which all have Wi-Fi capabilities, go to homes of students without internet so they could connect their Chromebooks or other devices to the hot spot of the bus and download their homework, since students have been doing their work remotely. District Superintendent Neil O'Brien previously said the district ensured every student had a Chromebook or other device to use before the district closed.

Corey Rooker, the district's transportation director, said a bus went to four homes that day. The idea is to have a bus park at the homes of district children who need the Wi-Fi for 20 minutes without the children having to leave their homes.

LIST: Cayuga County-area COVID-19 closures, cancellations, meeting/event updates

Rooker said each bus has had Wi-Fi capabilities for around two years. They allow students on longer bus routes or sports trips to get an opportunity to do their homework, he said, adding that it also helps keep students occupied on buses. He said Friday afternoon that he would be visiting five or six homes. He contacts the homes to let people know he will be coming and communicates with parents through Google Voice. He said the parents have been appreciative.

"One of the families actually offered me soda the other day," Rooker said, adding that he declined but appreciated the gesture.

Most of the areas Rooker has gone to are in the northern end of Conquest or the Montezuma area. He said the district is trying to get a sense on how many people are going to need the service, and then proceed from there. Parents are asked to email pbtech@pbcschools.org and then someone will reach out to arrange a visit.

"We want to keep everybody engaged in their education, and with it being all digital, if we can help out with that, then that's what we want to do," he said.

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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Education and City Reporter

Hello, my name is Kelly Rocheleau, and I cover the education and city beats for The Citizen and auburnpub.com. I've been writing for the paper since December 2016.

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