Like most school districts around the country, Knob Noster Public School District in Missouri has cancelled its in-person classes. And while many students will go online to continue their education, connectivity is a challenge for this rural Missouri community of 1,600 students.

But through grants funded by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), Knob Noster is able to provide every student from first through twelfth grade a laptop to continue their education (Kindergartners receive tablets). Laptops were sent home with students during spring break on March 12th.

Additionally, the school system has outfitted school buses as wireless hotspots to provide connectivity to families without internet access. “We’ve sent the buses throughout the community. Some families can drive to them. Others are in low rent housing areas and complexes. Some are parked in specific driveways in far corners of our district,” said Knob Noster superintendent Jarrod Wheeler. The deploying of Wi-Fi hotspot buses will provide 65% of families in the area with uninterrupted internet service.

With 72% of the student body having a military parent, Knob Noster School District heavily serves the needs of service member families based at Whiteman AFB. “We have a wonderful relationship with our installation, early on I was in constant contact with the base and we are very well aligned,” said Wheeler.  The recent DoDEA grant is the fourth Knob Noster Public School District has received to support its education and programming.

In addition to supporting students to continue their education online, the school district has continued to provide uninterrupted food service for all of its students (breakfast, lunch and a snack). Furthermore the district is providing meals, 100% free, to any individuals with disabilities through the age of 21; as well as providing families supplies to support critical infrastructure, such as hand sanitizer or toiletries.

Virtual learning starts this upcoming Monday, and Knob Noster will host a “Virtual Back-to-School” event to welcome back students. “This is a great opportunity to show what public education in the United States means,” said Wheeler.

Photo by U.S. Air Force // Valerie Mullett