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JUNCTION — When you live where others go to get away from it all, it takes a little longer to go anywhere else.
Unless you’re a high school athlete in a rural district.
Then it takes a lot longer.
“We go all the way up north, and then all the way towards Arizona. Kind of just all over,” said Haley Renegar, a softball player for Piute High School.
Renegar and her teammates were boarding a school bus parked outside their high school in Junction for a trip to play against a team in Northern Utah.
It’s a five-hour bus ride one way.
And it’s not even their longest trip of the year.
“When we went on the six-hour bus ride, we didn’t get home until two o’clock in the morning,” said Renegar.
It’s tough to finish school assignments when you’re so tired.
“Once we get home from our school trips, we would have to stay up extra hours to get our homework done,” said Alysen Talbot, who is also on the Piute High softball team.
In today’s digital world, homework is mostly done on school tablets and laptops and the trick is accessing the internet while on the road.
So, the Piute School District decided to try something.
Starting this school year, Piute put a portable Wi-Fi pack on a bus.
That way, students could get on the internet, access district approved sites and get their school work done.
“It’s kind of a passion because these kids are going to be our leaders for tomorrow, and we want to make sure they have the most tools they need to learn,” said Paul James, who is the IT director for the Piute School District.
Some students on the team are taking college courses.
“It helps me a lot, because I only take college classes,” said Renegar. “So all my classes are online and I’m able to do all my homework and get it all done.”
“Having Wi-Fi on the bus has helped me to be able to keep up with all my work and play sports at the same time,” said Tazia Johnson, who is one of the softball players on the team.
The Wi-Fi pack is portable and it’s not just for sports teams.
Students have requested the pack for long field trips.
And when it’s not being used, it can be installed on buses where students have long, everyday routes, such as the 50-minute one way ride to Koosharem.
“I have to travel almost an hour to school, so I get up early and have to stay up late to do homework,” said Talbot. “But now, with the Wi-Fi, I’m able to get my assignments done.”
Even teachers, who are also coaches on Piute’s sports teams, can get work done.
“Instead of getting home at midnight tonight and then having to grade all the work from today, or over the weekend, I’ll get most of it done on this trip,” said James Barney, who is a teacher at Piute High School and also the head softball coach.
Right now, Piute only has one of these packs, but it’s been requested so often, the district superintendent is already looking into getting more.
They cost about $800 each.
“Anything that promotes the success for our students,” said Shane Erickson, who is the superintendent for the Piute School District. “We live in an area where our average travel for an athletic event is about an hour and a half away.”
It’s a solution to try and make sure students don’t get left behind just because they live far away.
“It just makes it a lot easier,” said Renegar.