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District : Sunnyside Unified School District

State : Arizona

Level : P-12

District Enrollment : 10,001-40,000 students

Community Type : Rural, Suburban

Related Tags : Connectivity

When Bus Rides Become Hotspots

Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona, is an example of a district pursuing strategies to connect students when they are off campus. With its 19 schools, Sunnyside is the 13th largest school district in the state. Nearly 90% of the district’s 17,265 students identify as Hispanic. Additionally, nearly 30% of the student population are classified as English language learners, and 14% of the population receive special education services.

The Challenge

When it came time for students to complete their academic work outside of school using district-provided devices, Sunnyside realized it faced a challenge. Many families within the the district (where approximately 86% of students are eligible for free or reduced price meals) could not afford Internet access at home. This issue was exacerbated by the lack of infrastructure to provide adequate connectivity, given the expansive geography the district serves.

The Solution

To provide access, the district has equipped school buses with mobile wireless hotspots, enabling students to access the Internet and do homework on the way to and from school.

Through a partnership with the Native American Advancement Foundation, the district is increasing mobile learning opportunities for children in remote villages in the nearby Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation. Sunnyside outfitted a used City of Tucson van with the same wireless hotspot equipment that is on the school buses, and the van travels daily to a new village in the reservation to provide access to students. Funding for Wi-Fi enabled buses originates from the $88 million dollar bond passed in 2011, the biggest initiative the district has ever had.


  • Attach cameras to the bus WiFi to provide immediate video access for increased security.

Additional Resources

From Sunnyside Unified School District:

From the U.S. Department of Education:

District Point of Contact

Phone: (520) 545-2000
Twitter: @sunnysideusd