Upgrades boost technology at Edison

HAMMONDSVILLE — Ongoing upgrades at Edison Local Schools are enabling the sites to boost speed and capacity for improved technological performance.

District Technology Coordinator Rachael Granatir said updates have been made with networking systems to better serve teachers, students and staff at Edison’s three school buildings.

“We did a network infrastructure project and upgraded equipment,” Granatir said, adding the improvements will benefit 1,485 students in grades K-12.

The total project cost was $145,677, which was 80 percent funded through the E-Rate program, while the district only paid $29,000 toward the work.

E-Rate is the commonly used name for the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund administered under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission. The program provides discounts to assist national schools and libraries in obtaining affordable telecommunications and Internet access, and Edison Local Schools qualified to receive coverage for improvements based on free and reduced lunch counts through the National School Lunch Program and its location in a rural area.

Leaders applied for the funds last year and bid out the process in the fall with World Radio Telecommunications of Steubenville selected as a provider. A vast portion of the infrastructure replaced was at least 10 years old and Granatir said officials also replaced original wiring from the mid-1990s and relocated storage closets to contain the systems.

“We had a lot of existing wireless internet access points operating off of cabling that was originally installed in the mid-1990s. It was slower and not designed to handle wireless internet, plus there were and a lot of switches and power injectors in different places,” Granatir continued. “We added some more fiber cable within the building to actually take advantage of the faster fiber speed that we have at the district level. This project allowed us to put the fiber cable in secondary closets and we added switches to another closet to add capacity.”

Meanwhile, access points were essentially doubled in the buildings to handle increased usage from Chromebooks, iPads and other devices for more modernized learning.

“It was getting to the point where access points were being saturated and we had no capacity to handle the wireless systems,” Granatir explained. “We’ve doubled the capacity of our access points, so as we acquire more wireless devices we won’t have an issue with getting on the internet.”

World Radio Telecommunications began work at the start of the school and set up the equipment and then wireless networks were created for faculty, staff and students for access. Extreme Networks of San Jose, Calif., which has been the official Wi-Fi provider for the NFL’s Super Bowl, was selected as a vendor for wireless access points, controllers and switches.

“We basically replaced most of the infrastructure and wiring for under $30,000. Under E-Rate, each bid must be fairly evaluated and we factor the price, previous experience and it being a local company,” she said. “We’ve worked with World Radio Telecommunications for years and their techs know our buildings. They began at the start of the school year but had the rest of the equipment within a few days, then it was set up. We’ve had to create wireless networks for students, teachers and guests for access and this helps prioritize traffic to provide access for data they need for programs.”

Granatir added that along with the network upgrade, the district also increased the bandwidth to alleviate bottlenecks from the spike in online content. With the improvements, school devices now have the capacity to handle state testing for science, math and reading. She continued that weekly reading assessments and science and social studies programs are utilizing more digital content than textbooks, while the update also allows schools to use Reading Counts! and STAR Reading and Math educational websites and Google Apps for Education. She said the district currently has a five-year E-Rate budget which began in 2015 and Edison has utilized funds twice with more plans for maintenance and to add extra wiring and access points.

“It’s been a successful installation and we’ve updated the capacity for our teachers and students, and to have the project be 80-percent funded is phenomenal. Since the project started, we’ve added iPad carts at Stanton and John Gregg through a grant and now can prepare kids for online testing even earlier, plus it is easier to add access points later.”