New Britain school district, Schaller Auto partner to provide free Wi-Fi for dis-connected students amid pandemic


NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH) — Food is provided by Whitsons. Brand new books donated by “Friends of the New Britain public library”. Soon online learning will be easier for New Britain students, too. Thanks to a unique partnership between the Consolidated School District of New Britain and Schaller Auto.

Jamel Hargraves of New Britain is helping his family after COVID-19 stole their jobs.

Hargraves explained, “I picked up the breakfast and lunches they supply in New Britain and books for my grandkids since my son and his fiancée are out of work and they don’t have a car.”

Now, for Hargraves and other families struggling during the pandemic, there is more help for students distance-learning.

Schaller Auto in New Britain will be outfitting 16 used cars with WiFi-hotspots provided by the city school district.

Art Schaller of Schaller Auto said, “We are here to serve when we can and this is an opportunity to do something for the city that they couldn’t just do on their own…My hope is that we can pull it off by putting everything on the passenger seat and floor and then place the antennae’s where-ever is feasible.”

Nancy Sarra, School Superintendent in New Britain is grateful.

“Schaller’s stepped forward and they became a solution for us to connect those 1,000 families or students that were not connected to the internet,” Sarra said.

More than two dozen locations around the city were pinpointed. Neighborhoods where at least 20 kids remain off-line.

Hargraves said he’s excited about the new opportunity for his grand-kids and other students in New Britain.

Superintendent Sarra says school Information Technology staff used a unique method to find the kids who needed help.

“My tech team using a heat map identified where students weren’t connecting,” Sarra explained, “and then drilled down to find out why they weren’t connecting.”

Now all will have access to Wi-Fi. Schaller employees will man the cars.

Art Schaller said, “We have some folks who feel they are at risk and are asking not to return to work and that’s great, this is a perfect task for them. They can have a car that is disinfected they are the only ones touching it.”

The hope is to get everyone connected over the next few weeks. Which should get them through the rest of the school year.

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