Newport-Mesa looking for ways to expand Wi-Fi beyond school sites

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District is researching ways to expand Wi-Fi service beyond school sites to serve all students, including those lacking internet access at home.

Some advocates for Westside Costa Mesa have said many students who live there are unable to complete online school assignments because they don’t have internet access.

District spokeswoman Annette Franco said Friday that officials are looking into what neighboring communities and schools are doing.

During the Jan. 16 school board meeting, Supt. Fred Navarro said the district is exploring whether it could partner with local cities or districts to share radio waves. Another option could be putting Wi-Fi units on trucks in the parking lot at each school site, he said.

“There is a system out there. We’re in the baby stage, but it is possible to provide free Wi-Fi,” Navarro said.

Officials are looking for the most long-range solution they can sustain, he added.

Costa Mesa resident Ashley Anderson said she has heard of students taking Accelerated Reader tests in school parking lots after hours in order to use the campus Wi-Fi.

It would be a step in the right direction if each school expanded its Wi-Fi boundaries, similar to large campuses like UCLA, Anderson said.

“Anything that stands in the way of a child completing their school work needs to be addressed,” said school board President Vicki Snell.

In 2016, the district began phasing in Chromebook laptops in the Estancia zone, which includes seven elementary schools and a high school.

Students who are allowed to take home a Chromebook follow the same approach as if they were checking out a book from the library.

Students in the Newport Harbor zone, which includes six elementary schools, a middle school and a high school, are receiving Chromebooks this school year.

The remaining two school zones will receive the laptops in coming years.

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