On Special Assignment

Nov 19, 2012 10:12 AM by Robin O'Day - KPAX News

St. Regis schools take technological leap ahead

ST REGIS - Long bus rides are typical for Montana kids living in remote areas, but getting to go online and do your homework the whole way is not.

Robin O'Day went on Special Assignment to find out how St. Regis School is able to swing it, without breaking the bank.

"Being here in a small town, you wouldn't really think the school would be able to do that, but now, it's a lot better," St. Regis sophomore Elias King told us.

When school is out in St. Regis, 14-year-old Elias gets on the bus to go home with his laptop in hand. With a quick click, the mobile hotspot goes up on the bus, giving everyone seamless service on their ride to and from school.

"Get a little head start before you head home, it's nice," Elias said.

That same hotspot goes home with Elias, and he can access the Internet, with a secure and filtered connection. This year, it's been the advantage he's needed to push him from academically surviving to academically thriving.

"Watching Elias, he has made tremendous gains. He's a really bright boy and just giving him the opportunity to learn in different formats, he has excelled tremendously," St. Regis Title I Director Teresa Wilson said.

"He's excited about it, he likes it, he looks forward to taking it home every night. I have yet to see a kid excited about taking worksheets home," she continued.

Some students face a bus ride of over an hour on school days, and that doesn't include the athletes, like senior Spur Hill, who often travels several hours for a game. The time away inevitably pushes their school work onto the bench, until now.

"It's nice that we have this now, because we get pulled out of school a lot, or the last couple of periods, so it's nice to catch up on some of the stuff," Hill explained.

It's not always about the newest and coolest tool of technology these kids are using, it's about creating an environment, essentially a culture, in which every student feels like their playing their part.

"As students become familiar with it, confident and successful, they star to take it over. They start to manage it, they start to give back," St. Regis School Superintendent Janet Hanson said.

"They start to go out in the community more. That's what we want. We want to see students who gain skills and confidence and then start using it like it's natural and then go out and help others too," she pointed out.

Most St. Regis students do not have internet at home, and Hanson says the federal "Gear Up" grant and the Verizon government account have made this shift very affordable. The school does use a federal guideline filter system to keep students safe while they are online.

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