The Athens Board of Education approved a technology project totaling $449,000 Thursday that includes LAN upgrades and wireless equipment installations at Athens High School, Athens Middle School, Julian Newman Elementary and Brookhill Elementary School.
The total cost per school is $112,000. The goal is to implement the upgrades and equipment by January 2013.
The hope is for all schools to have managed wireless networks that allow each location to add mobile devices for student use.
According to Dr. Chris Hamilton, Coordinator of Technology Resources, the cost is comparable to installations that have already occurred at Athens Elementary, Athens Intermediate and Cowart Elementary with federal E-rate funds. She added they are in-line with the budget allocation within the current capital plan.
She said in a memo to Superintendent Dr. Orman Bridges, that to prepare for the predicted influx of wireless use within the system in the next few years, it is necessary to upgrade five-year-old switches and the cabling network, which will be upgraded from CAT 5 to CAT 6 to accommodate for increased network speeds. She added that CAT 5 cabling that is currently in schools are not certified to run at such speeds and that if not upgraded, data transmitting on the network could be “bottle necked” or slowed.
Switchdesk will handle the cabling work at the schools as part of a current service agreement. Switches and other networking equipment will be purchased from CDWG as part of the Alabama Joint Purchasing Contract.
Meru, also a ALJP vendor, will serve as the wireless vendor.
Hamilton said wiring would be ran in the schools at night so there would not be any interruption in the classroom.
Board President Russell Johnson asked Hamilton if upgrades would have to be made again at Athens Elementary, Athens Intermediate and Cowart Elementary. Hamilton pointed out they would have be upgraded to CAT 6 in the future.
She believes it’s a big project for the district. Board member Tim Green asked if the upgrade was step one in getting computers in students’ hands. “I certainly hope so,” Hamilton said. “We’ve talked about that just this week … I think all the schools are anxious to get more devices and we have began to talk about how to acquire those and what that next step will be.”
She added they are proceeding with caution because they will need money for equipment, professional development for teachers and assistance. However, she believes everyone sees the upgrades as the “first step of many.”
Other approved items included:
• Memorandum of Understanding between the Limestone County Management Agency and the Athens Board of Education. The MOU is regarding the use of schools in times of disaster and would only be requested in a state of emergency;
• Allowing students in grades 3-12 to attend the 6th annual Athens Storytelling Festival Oct. 24-25. The students will be transported by school buses as in the past. Athens Homecoming coincides with the festival. However, AHS Principal Chris Bolen said they still plan on having the parade, but will change the route. “We will see part of the Square, but not all,” Bolen said.;
• Facility requests for the use of Athens Middle School softball field by North Alabama Fast Pitch Explosion Softball and for Athens High School for the Limestone County Cattlemen’s Association to hold its annual meeting and dinner Jan. 25 and Hospice of Limestone County to host its annual Chili Challenge/Silent Auction Feb. 22-23;
• Extracurricular activities for Athens Intermediate School, Athens Middle School and Athens High School;
• Selection of Green as delegate as well as Board member James Lucas as the alternate delegate for the 2012 AASB Delegate Assembly.