If you live in a city, having your grocery store or favorite coffee shop within walking distance is hardly a luxury, seeing as restaurants, bars, and all sorts of retail vendors are highly concentrated in higher populated areas. Even those who have traveled a little outside the city to the quiet suburbs rarely have to travel more than 15 minutes to a supermarket. But in rural communities, it can be a lengthy trip to do something as simple as stocking the fridge, and hoofing it to the local sports bar is often out of the question. When living in the city or the suburbs, the amount of time citizens have to commute to their necessary locations, whether it’s work, school, or Starbucks, is largely reduced, giving them more time to work and play then those spending significant portions of their day behind the wheel and on the road.
This is particularly concerning when it comes to rural students, who can lose hours of valuable study time on the bus or in the car on the way to and from their house and the nearest public school. Gamewell Middle School in Caldwell County, North Carolina is one of these public schools that caters to a rural, widespread demographic. At Gamewell, 67% of their students rides one of their nine standard school buses, which log about 400 miles every day. The average time a Gamewell student spends on the bus is one and half hours.
This gives urban and suburban kids a leg up by allowing them to participate in extracurricular activities and keep up with their studies without having to worry about losing hours to excessive travel. But The Verge reports that Google’s pilot “Rolling Study Hall” is looking to make the education system more equitable by affording those rural students to not fall behind on their studies during their long commutes. The program equips standard school buses with dependable Wi-Fi that is often higher quality than the internet they have in their homes. In addition to cutting-edge Wi-Fi routers, Google also provides students with data plans and Chromebook devices, and each Rolling Study Hall has an on-board educator to help students with questions that computers can’t always answer.
One of the program’s earliest trials was in Berkeley County, South Carolina, and it turned out to be so successful that Google is now expanding the program to 16 more states in which rural communities are prominent and students share the same struggles as those in Berkeley and Caldwell County. The states that will soon have Google’s new technology installed are the following:
- New Mexico
- South Carolina
In addition to this new program, Google has reportedly granted $1.9 million to local schools and nonprofits in Berkeley County and $4 million in Caldwell County since 2009. They have built data centers in these communities, which has not only created jobs in those communities, but has also allowed them to directly serve their customers in those areas. If this pattern continues, they will do much more for the rural communities in these 16 states than create mobile study halls.