Idaho moving forward with school Wi-Fi

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by Stephanie Zepelin

KREM.com

Posted on August 3, 2013 at 7:12 AM

Updated Saturday, Aug 3 at 7:20 AM

BOISE -- The state is moving ahead with putting wireless internet in high schools across Idaho. 

Out of the 137 school districts and public charter schools across the state that are allowed to participate, 114 signed up for the state's Wi-Fi program. Earlier this year, the legislature approved $2.25 million for the state to provide wireless internet access to every public school, grades nine through 12.

"And they wanted us to not only go forward and provide the wireless infrastructure, but also repair, replacement and support for that wireless infrastructure," said Melissa McGrath, Communications Director for the Idaho State Department of Education. "If school districts chose to sing up this year by August 1, they should be connected by March of 2014."

The Idaho State Department of Education plans to connect thousands of students to Wi-Fi networks by spring.

"The program is designed so that it would have the capacity for at any given time, in any high school all the students could be connected to wireless at the same time," McGrath said.

One of the districts participating is the Boise School District.

"We feel like it's an opportunity for us to move in a direction that will enhance what we're doing for students and teachers," said David Roberts, Boise School District Chief Technology Officer.

Roberts said they like the Wi-Fi plan because it still allows them to choose how they use it. Boise Schools were working to have one wireless hub for every four classrooms, but the state plan allows them to have one wireless hub for every two classrooms.

"It is going to save us some money, and it will allow us to possibly relocate and put more wireless hubs in other schools, maybe at other levels," said Roberts.

As for expanding the state program to other grade levels state-wide, that has not been established yet.

"At this time, they're really talking about seeing how this goes in high schools and providing that to high schools first, and then possibly expanding it," said McGrath.

Next, the Idaho State Department of Education will conduct site visits with all the districts that signed up, and find out exactly how many high schools are in each district.

The Wi-Fi network will be equipped with some filters, and schools can add more protections and filters as they see fit.

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