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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Alabama physical schools may be empty, but virtual classrooms are filling up.

Huntsville City Schools launched its new Blended Learning program. Monday was more of an open house to get students familiar to the system.

Huntsville has been preparing to connect 24,000 students to begin online classes.

Blended Learning

Students at Huntsville City Schools will now have the hook up they need to start online classes Tuesday.

“A lot of our students don’t have access to internet, so being able to expand or Wi-Fi out into the parking areas 300 yards will allow our students to download assignments, upload assignments using their school devices,” said HCS Technology Director Todd Watkins in an interview HCS provided.

He said it hasn’t cost the schools much of anything. With the antennas up, students can safely learn inside of a car and maintain distance from other kids.

The reach is wide

“We have three 3,000 hot spots that are issued out, but we still need more there’s a lot students that don’t have access at home,” said Watkins.

The expansion is a big benefit, especially for low-income families. The school district and the Apple Bus Company deployed a fleet of buses with Wi-Fi access in areas of greatest need throughout the city.

You can see the Wi-Fi passwords posted in the bus windows, and for the sake of everyone’s health, no one is allowed to enter the school buses.

“We wanted to give access as much as possible,” said Watkins.

Help was needed to pull this off

The school district couldn’t do this alone. Administrators got a lot of help from Huntsville Utilities, the communications service provider ADTRAN, and other community partners.

“Today — with the virus that’s out there we’re seeing that connectivity is more important than ever,” said ADTRAN Product Management Director Chris Thompson.

Thousands of students will be able to continue their studies — virtually — at a safe distance.

Virtual lesson videos are already posted on the Huntsville City Schools website. The school year is still slated to end in May.