LPOSD opts to join state-funded Wi-Fi program

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SANDPOINT — Lake Pend Oreille School District officials have decided to participate the recently-announced state-funded wireless Internet program.

According to district technology director Randy Wittwer, the district has signed an opt-in agreement to participate in the state program. Since the state will be bearing the financial burden through a five-year, $2.1 million annual contract with Tennessee company Education Networks of America, Wittwer said participation will save money on a local level.

“I think it really is in our best interest that we’ve opted in to make sure we’re using our own tax dollars wisely,” Wittwer said.

The contract with ENA will provide a managed service for the installation, maintenance and support of network infrastructure, allowing for high-speed wireless Internet access in all participating high schools across the state. According to Wittwer, the new network won’t necessarily provide the district with higher bandwidth speeds, but it will greatly expand the number of classrooms with full Internet access. Once the ENA network is ready to launch in the school district, 31 high school classrooms will have wireless access.

That connectivity will be important as the district increases the presence of technology in the classroom. Superintendent Shawn Woodward said grants acquired through the federal government and the Khan Academy will bring one-to-one iPad implementation throughout a third of the district. Since iPads require Internet connections for most of their functionality, a thorough wireless program will be important, Wittwer said.

According to the contract’s implementation plan, infrastructure for the entire state should be completed by March 2014. However, Wittwer said it’s unclear if LPOSD will be added onto the network before that date.

“It just depends on when the state chooses to bring it to us,” he said.

The state isn’t asking anything in return for participation in the wireless network, Wittwer added. However, he said there are a few potential downsides. The biggest is the potential for a loss of control. Since the network will be managed by state officials, they’ll be calling the shots on decisions like which websites are blocked and which ones aren’t.

“It will remove some local control, which is always a concern,” Wittwer said.

However, he added that the opportunity to avoid the costs of managing the district’s own wireless network — which would have been financed through local tax dollars — looks to be worth the trade-off.

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