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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks to educators and students in Irwin County about a new Google-sponsored education initiative for rural students.

OCILLA — Google and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp hosted an event in Ocilla this week celebrating the launch of Google’s Rolling Study Halls program, an initiative that brings Wi-Fi to students with long bus commutes in 16 communities across the country.

As part of the program, Google outfitted four Irwin County School District buses with Wi-Fi capabilities and computers. The average daily route time for students on these buses is between 55 and 75 minutes one way.

The new program helps students who have longer commutes to and from school, allowing them to complete some of their homework assignments during their bus ride. Nationally, the program is enabling students to reclaim more than 1.5 million hours of learning time that would otherwise be lost during long bus commutes. In addition to helping students reclaim this time, the Rolling Study Halls initiative also ensures students have daily access to a reliable internet connection, which is lagging in many rural communities and is critical to today’s learning environment.

Kemp announced the program’s arrival at Irwin County Middle School alongside State Sen. Tyler Harper, State Rep. Clay Pirkle, and 50 students and administrators from the Irwin County School District who use the outfitted buses daily throughout the school year.

“I want to thank all of the incredible educators, administrators, local leaders and Google for making today’s celebration possible,” Kemp said. “Technology is a powerful tool for learning, exploring and growing, and I’m confident that this initiative will make a lasting impact on countless students in and around Ocilla. I look forward to seeing this partnership create brighter futures for rural Georgia families and students.”

“We’re so thrilled to have Gov. Kemp join us here in Ocilla to celebrate the newest Rolling Study Halls district,” Alex Sanchez, a spokesperson for Google, said in a news release. “It’s important for students everywhere to have access to the tools they need to learn every day.”

According to AEI, one out of four U.S. students is educated today in schools defined as rural, which means that more than 10 million students may not have reliable access to an internet connection at home for schoolwork. In partnership with Consortium for School Networking, Google is working closely with districts to start closing that homework gap for thousands of students across the country.

Rolling Study Halls is part of Grow With Google, a new initiative to help create economic opportunities for Americans. The program aims to give people across the United States resources to grow their skills, careers and businesses by offering free tools, training and events.

To learn more about Rolling Study Halls, visit g.co/rollingstudyhalls.

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