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In the Midst of COVID-19: DRMP Supports Alachua County Students "Access" to Learning

May 7th, 2020


Gainesville, Fla. – Due to COVID-1 (Coronavirus), students are faced with the challenge of distance – especially those with little or no access to the internet. DRMP did its part by supporting Alachua County Public School’s School Bus WiFi project.

The district brought on DRMP’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysts to assist them in finding a solution to reach those students. The school district had the capability to outfit their school buses to serve as Wi-Fi hot spots around the county and just needed to know where to park them every day to give access to the students. Using various data sources, they helped the district decide on almost 50 final sites that optimized the number of students that could use them conveniently. Most of those identified sites were community centers, apartment complexes and churches.

DRMP was given the task to cross-check a list of initial candidate sites identified by the school district.  Our GIS analysts developed a heat map using data from the U.S. Census, student populations within neighborhoods, family income, pedestrian infrastructure, availability of parking and other factors. Having worked with the district since 2015, the firm was able to utilize other various data sets gathered on other district projects. With all of this data, GIS analysts performed a kernel density analysis to calculate the density of students in the district’s neighborhoods. The analysis conducted helped identify 10 additional sites for the district to consider and choose the best sites out of an initial list of 70. Using DRMP’s final recommendation, the district has begun to regularly deploy Wi-Fi-enabled buses to the places where they can have the most impact.      

“Using GIS data, we can figure out where students are clustered,” said DRMP’s Kelly Marton, GISP, lead analyst on the district’s project. “When the school district approached us about this project, we knew we could make a difference. Accessing Wi-Fi is a hurdle for many students in the county, and around the state, and being able to apply a solution to give them some normalcy is meaningful.”

Beginning in April 2020, the hot spots were made available for about three hours every weekday in the affected areas. Students within approximately 150-200 feet of the parked bus, either at home or in a vehicle, can access the Wi-Fi network provided by the district for free. To help support the program, Alachua County Public Schools won a $5,000 Distance Learning Innovations Mini-Grant from the Florida Education Foundation’s for the School Bus Wi-Fi program.
 
"We've always had a great working relationship with DRMP, but this situation was really special," said Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent, Karen Clarke. "It was wonderful how enthusiastically DRMP jumped in to help us map out a strategy to help our students and families during these very difficult times."

About DRMP

DRMP is a multi-discipline firm serving clients in the public, private and industrial sectors in the development of infrastructure for the community-at-large and has been in business since 1977.  DRMP currently employs 500 professionals in 17 office locations spread strategically across our service areas.  Today, DRMP is ranked among Engineering News-Record’s “Top 500 Design Firms” in the United States.  For more information, please visit www.drmp.com.

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