An offer from the University of Maine System to set up “study-from-car” hot spots at local schools is getting a “decent” response, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The system’s NetworkMaine is creating open access at schools where signals can extend outside buildings into parking lots.

Local schools and libraries from Naples to Eustis have accepted the offer, said Dan Demeritt, executive director of public affairs for the university system.

“We’ve heard from several school districts, but we’re still trying to get the word out,” he said.

According to an interactive map created by NetworkMaine, Oxford Hills Middle School in Paris/Oxford, Gould Academy in Bethel, the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College, UMF, the UMA Brunswick Center and public libraries in Naples, Readfield and Stratton have accepted the offer.

The map was last updated Monday, Demeritt said. On Wednesday, it listed 24 K-12 schools and 15 libraries statewide.

The offer was extended to the 140 schools whose Wi-Fi networks are provided by the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, according to a news release.

NetworkMaine is creating open-access “guest” networks that are separate from existing networks at schools.

The hope is that the Maine Learning Technology Initiative wireless service bleeds out of the building enough so that people can park and pick up service from their cars.

The Lewiston public school system is looking into the offer, Superintendent Todd Finn said.

“We are weighing out the risks and benefits,” he said. “We will evaluate where we are by next week.”

Auburn schools no longer have Maine Learning Technology Initiative networks, but the district could offer its own service, Superintendent Katy Grondin said.

“We do have a ‘guest’ network at our high school that students could access outside the building,” she said. “However, we have not tested the strength of the network outside of the building.”

She said officials would explore the network’s capacity to provide access outside buildings at as many schools as possible in the district.

Students in RSU 56 in the Dixfield area are encouraged to use Wi-Fi in the schools’ parking lots, Superintendent Pam Doyen said.

She said administrators had called all homes to inquire about internet access and “very few are without service.”

Technology Director Brian Keene is working with outside sources to provide devices and hot spots for those in need, Doyen said.

Schools in RSU 10, which serves the Rumford and Buckfield areas, are not set up to offer Wi-Fi hot spot services but the district is offering remote services to students and families, Superintendent Deb Alden said.

The technology department’s help desk can be contacted at 369-5560, ext. 7700 or at [email protected]

RSU 9 in the Farmington area had no plans “at the moment” to take up the NetworkMaine offer, Superintendent Tina Meserve said.

She said students in grades six through 12 without internet access were given hard copies of learning materials.

K-12 schools have been closed since March 16 to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

NetworkMaine’s offer “will help expand options for our students who are trying to access remote learning,” Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin said in a news release.

She called the offer “an example of the collaborative and creative problem-solving that is needed to ensure all students have the basic accessibility needed.”

Sun Media staff writers Marianne Hutchinson and Dee Menear contributed to this report.

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