BRADENTON, Fla. - Though school buses in Manatee County have sat quietly for weeks, drivers like Felica Yarn are now back at work, driving buses for a different purpose.
As the Manatee County School District transitioned to online learning, it outfitted 18 buses with WiFi.
"In a way, we are still helping out these students as far as still getting their education," explained Yarn.
They're now driving to 14 different locations each day to help students and their families get online.
More than 800 students were in need of hot spots to log-on for school work. Now the WiFi comes to them.
"A lot of our members and our community members like our superintendent said didn’t have the WiFi or the capability of doing school work," said Pastor Dr. James Sykes.
Ward Temple A.M.E Church was one of the first to sign off. Students can utilize WiFi from their homes or inside the church at a safe distance from one another. The church is also feeding at least 50 students breakfast and lunch a day.
The Manatee County School District hopes more will join.
"We wanted it to be in highly populated areas where students could not only come here for a safe-haven, but it would also span enough in the neighborhood that many people in their homes are also getting the connectivity without coming to this church location," said Superintendent Cynthia Saunders.
Two buses are located on farms for 200 migrant families with students and more are on the way.
"We're changing whenever we see the need and we’re making adjustments as we go along," said Superintendent Saunders.
The district plans on using the new tool after COVID-19 passes.
The WiFi buses are available at the following locations:
Bayside Community Dream Center, 1816 9th St. W., Bradenton, 9 a.m. - noon
Bayside Community West Campus, 6609 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, 9 a.m. - noon
Bible Baptist Church, 1720 6th Ave. W., Palmetto, 9 a.m. - noon
Eternity Temple, 716 29th E., Palmetto, 1-4 p.m.
Fellowship Alliance Church, 5735 69th St. E. Palmetto, 1-4 p.m.
Oneco United Methodist Church, 2112 53rd Ave. E., Bradenton, 1-4 p.m.
Bayshore Community Church, 6502 14th St. W., Bradenton, 9 a.m. - noon, 1-4 p.m.
East Coast Migrant Head start Project, 34590 S.R. 64 E., Myakka City, 9 a.m. - noon, 1-4 p.m.
The Source Church, 5412 S.R. 64 E. Bradenton, 9 a.m. - noon, 1-4 p.m.
Ward Temple AME Church, 1005 5th St. W., Bradenton, 9 a.m. - noon, 1-4 p.m.
West Bradenton Baptist, 1305 43rd St. W., Bradenton, 9 a.m. - noon, 1-4 p.m.
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