News Column

Walla Walla School Board OKs $348,435 to improve wireless networks

June 19, 2014

By Ben Wentz, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Wash.



June 19--WALLA WALLA -- Schools across the Walla Walla School District are getting a big upgrade this summer, although it won't be visible to the naked eye.

After a unanimous vote Tuesday, the school board approved a $348,435 project to install a wireless Internet networks at four schools and upgrading the sometimes spotty and hodgepodge networks at almost every other school in the district.

Forrest Baker, district director of technology, said the upgrades will help prepare for future mobile technology use, allowing schools more flexibility when administering new state testing that must be done via the Internet.

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"It certainly meets some of our current needs and demands," Baker said.

Ultimately, the upgrades could pave the way for a one-to-one mobile device program, wherein each student uses a mobile device such as an iPad or Chromebook instead of textbooks.

"There's certainly an expectation and a demand for that wireless technology," Baker said, "so we need to get that installed before we move forward with any one-to-one technology plan."

As the upgrade was not included in the budget for this year, the district will dip into its reserve to fund the upgrade, meaning it will have about $6.5 million in reserve at the end of the school year rather than the projected $6.8 million.

According to the proposal (at right) the district will move to upgrade the network at Walla Walla High School first at a cost of $133,022.

The upgrade at Wa-Hi will be extensive, encompassing entirely new networks in the athletics area, parts of the library, the fine arts and commons buildings and the portables. The school also will see current infrastructure brought up to modern standards.

Sharpstein, Prospect Point and Green Park elementary schools currently have no wireless networks and will be the next highest priorities, as well as Lincoln High School, which has "very limited and old wireless available and needs new installation," according to the proposal for the project.

Most of the wireless upgrades are to be completed this summer, with remainder finished by March. The only school not in the plan is Garrison Middle School, which recently upgraded its wireless network.

In addition to the wireless upgrades, the district has also established a technology task force to examine technology needs and develop plans for the future.

"We needed to have that task force in place because we have so many different goals coming up that involve technology," Baker said, "and there's so much overlap that we didn't just want to have the technology director and superintendent making those decisions. We wanted some input in making those decisions."

The committee is comprised of 13 district teachers and administrators.

In addition to examining current technology needs, the committee will also examine ways to integrate technology into the curriculum.

"Technically, it was set up in an advisory capacity, but there's certainly going to be some legwork and research," Baker said. "It's really all about looking at what we can do -- setting and meeting those goals."

Ben Wentz can be reached at benwentz@wwub.com or 526-8315.

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(c)2014 Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, Wash.)

Visit Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, Wash.) at union-bulletin.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (WA)


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