The Johnston County school system is creating a directory of wifi hotspots for students to use after school.
The project is just getting underway, with the schools collecting the names and locations of restaurants and other businesses with wifi.
The school will put the directory on its website, either as a list or map; the schools are still working out the details but hope to have the directory online this month.
Dr. Fran Riddick is assistant superintendent for instructional support and development. Her staff is always looking at what other school systems are doing and came across the wifi idea, she said.
School systems are reaching out to the business community because they want “to provide wifi to their students in order for them to do their homework or look at resources or learn outside of the school building,” Riddick said. “And so we decided, well, why not do that here?”
A lot of schoolwork now requires an Internet connection. The good news, Riddick said, is that many students already have wifi-enabled devices – laptops and tablets.
“We hope that they’ll spend more time learning,” she said. “Students are going to be on their devices for social-media purposes or networking, and why not turn some of that time into learning time?”
The Johnston school system is partnering with the Greater Smithfield-Selma Area Chamber of Commerce, which is reaching out to businesses. For now, the schools are focusing on wifi in Smithfield and Selma, though the aim is ultimately a countywide directory.
Kelly Wallace, director of operations for the Smithfield-Selma Chamber, said the directory will benefit students and businesses. “I’m envisioning Smithfield and Selma being a big, giant hotspot,” she said.
Participating businesses will get a sticker to display in their window. Phone company CenturyLink is paying for the stickers and working with businsses that want to set up or expand their wifi networks.
“It’s important because the Internet is so vital to kids’ education,” said Dacia LaBounty, an area manager of market development for CenturyLink. “This will overcome many of the barriers that people have in getting broadband to their house if they can’t afford it financially or can’t afford equipment or things like hat.”
Scott Gandolph, owner of Gandolfo’s Deli in downtown Smithfield, called the directory a great idea, “especially for the people that can’t afford wifi in the home.” His daughter is in college and often comes to the restaurant to use the wifi for homework, he said.