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News Release, St. Mary’s County Public Schools
LEONARDTOWN, MD – Free WiFi access is now available to all students and staff in the parking lots of nine St. Mary’s County Public Schools (SMCPS). Access is restricted to individuals with an official SMCPS email address.
The SMCPS Department of Information Technology Services (ITS) evaluated several alternatives and determined that an extension of the existing SMCPS network signal to school parking lots provided the best short- and long-term value. SMCPS reallocated existing technology funds from the Fiscal Year 2020 operating budget to prioritize internet access for our students and staff. Schools with parking lot WiFi signals are:
- Ridge Elementary
- George Washington Carver Elementary
- Great Mills High
- Leonardtown High
- Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center
- Evergreen Elementary
- Dynard Elementary
- Chopticon High
- Lettie Marshall Dent Elementary
SMCPS chose the above locations as a way to support students across St. Mary’s County. Efforts are underway to seek grant funding to extend this service to all SMCPS schools. The parking lot WiFi access is provided through a permanent connection to the existing SMCPS network which will remain accessible throughout and following this public health crisis.
“Access to a wireless signal in our school parking lots is a valuable benefit for our students and staff”, said SMCPS Superintendent Dr. J. Scott Smith. “The SMCPS ITS department moved quickly to identify and install an option that will provide internet access during our current crisis and well into the future.”
Students and staff can park in the bus loops, front, and side parking lots of the above-listed schools, remain in their cars, and complete essential work on the internet. At Lettie Marshall Dent Elementary, a WiFi signal is available in both the front and rear parking lots. The hotspots will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Accessing the SMCPS network through this connection provides all the access and restrictions as connecting from within the building. Individuals may need to experiment with parking lot location to achieve the best signal strength for their particular device. SMCPS ITS staff continue to optimize this WiFi access for signal coverage and device type.
SMCPS uses video surveillance to monitor parking lots and the exteriors of all school buildings. The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office will periodically patrol the areas around schools. Schools are closed to the public, but critical staff members are still working.
“We know internet access is not available to some families for a variety of reasons,” Smith said. “Providing this access in our school parking lots is a creative way to begin to level the playing field and is one more way we are supporting our families, students, and staff during this challenging time.”
Directions to access the hotspot:
- Pull into the school parking lot
- Open your WiFi connection or network connection screen
- Look for the network name “smcpsConnect”
- Login using your SMCPS network credentials
- Additional direction for logging into the network can be found at: www.smcps.org/dci/online