Mid-Valley school districts offer drive-up Wi-Fi

With schools around the state closed until at least May 4 due to the coronavirus pandemic, educators have scrambled to keep students learning outside the classroom.

From video chats, to take-home instructional packets, local schools have adapted to the new realities with aplomb. But not all students have equal access to technology or internet connectivity. To help bridge the gap, two Mid-Valley school districts have made drive-up Wi-Fi hotspots available for students who have a device — such as a laptop or tablet — but don’t have home access to the internet.

In Weslaco, students can access free Wi-Fi in the parking lot of Bobby Lackey Stadium, according to Weslaco ISD Facebook post. The hotspots are available on the south and southwest sides of the parking lot, along North Westgate Drive.

Wi-Fi access is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to the post, and students traveling to and from the stadium will not be in violation of Hidalgo County’s shelter in place order. Users will need to connect to the “wisd-byot” network, the post reads.

The district asks students to remain in their vehicles while accessing the internet, and not to interact with occupants of other vehicles.

Meanwhile, students in Mercedes will have several options for accessing drive-up Wi-Fi.

Mercedes ISD has deployed three smart buses capable of broadcasting a Wi-Fi signal up to 200 feet from the bus.

Smart buses are stationed in the Jim Norris Gym parking lot of Mercedes High School, the 10th Street parking lot of Mercedes Early College school, and the main parking lot of Sgt. Harrell Middle School, according to a district Facebook post.

The Wi-Fi access is available from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Users will need to input the password “smartbus” to access the service. As in Weslaco, students are advised to remain in their vehicles.