Remember sneaker-net? MN’s Iron Range is working on schoolbus-net!

Every parent knows, distance education is hard. It’s been tiring to just hear what families without broadband are doing. Over the weekend, KSTP News tracked a day in the life of distance learning on the Iron Range. Something about the story reminded me of the days when businesses I worked with used to refer to their networks as sneaker-net, which really meant no network. They put files on disk and ran the disk from one computer to the next, whether that was from one office to the next or form the tractor to the computer on the kitchen table. We need to fix the inequity.

See what you think and imagine what a difference ubiquitous broadband would mean on the Iron Range…

Inside the Mountain Iron-Buhl High School cafeteria, Principal James Jotter watches as support staff begins their daily ritual of organizing worksheets and books in folders labeled with each student’s name and address.

The staff then staple together brown bags that hold prepackaged meals for students who qualify for free and reduce lunches. The meals and the packets are then loaded onto school buses.

When the school bell rings at 3:10 p.m., drivers board their empty school buses and drive their normal routes, delivering the curriculum to families waiting at the stops.

“The first day that we did this, I’ve never seen them so excited to see me to be honest,” said bus driver Casey Hultgren. “They started chanting my name.”

He makes a dozen stops along his new normal route, including right to the driveway of several rural homes in the area, where curriculum packets are left in mailboxes.

“When we drop it off, we pick up any work they have completed and bring it to the teachers,” Jotter said.

Students are encouraged to send work back virtually, but Jotter acknowledged that the lack of broadband availability makes that impossible for some, and he worries about the lasting impacts of the inequity.

This entry was posted in education, MN, Rural and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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