If you’re a kid in one of 16 selected US school districts, get ready to browse the web from the comfort of your seatbelt-eschewing school bus. Google’s latest educational endeavor is an expansion of its Rolling Study Halls initiative, which provides students in rural areas access to Chromebooks and Wi-Fi-equipped buses so they can get work done on the web after school. Broadly, the program is also intended to limit the negative impact a lack of high-speed internet access at home can have on a student’s education.
Google’s Rolling Study Halls first began as a pilot program in North and South Carolina, but Google’s expansion into 16 more school districts, announced today at the Deer Trail Secondary School in Colorado, means its program for rural students will grant significantly more youngsters access to fast internet before and after school hours.
“We are so excited to bring Rolling Study Halls to communities across the country,” said Google executive Susan Molinari. “It’s so important for students to have access to the resources they need to be successful in school and in their future careers.” The program will apparently help students reclaim “more than 1.5 million hours of learning time” that would otherwise be spent hurling spitballs at classmates (or, perhaps more likely, sleeping).
The effort is supported by the Consortium for School Networking, an advocacy group promoting technology use in K-12 environments, as well as Kajeet, which provides 4G LTE connectivity along with management software used to keep students connected to and from school on buses. Google told Gizmodo that it will provide the buses and Chromebooks needed for the Rolling Study Hall initiative, while also funding onboard educators, through the end of the 2019 school year.
But what happens after the school year comes to an end in 2019? Google has already dropped the ball on its fiber internet program—so how committed is it when it comes to helping connect young students to the web after school in the years ahead?
It’s possible this may depend on other initiatives connected closely to Google’s bottom line. If Google’s current success with Chromebooks is any indication, the company has plenty of reasons to throw money at projects could get its cheap laptops into more schools. “We’re working with the district on sustainability measures now, but ultimately the outcomes for each district will depend on what they want to do with the infrastructure on the buses,” said a Google spokesperson.