WEBSTER COUNTY, Ky. (1/9/13) - The Webster County School system is prepared to take a giant leap forward in its technology department.
In October the board approved the hiring of a Network Engineer to replace Computer Maintenance Technician Ray Link who was retiring. The man they hired is Mike Stone, a Webster County native, and he has wasted no time getting to work.
“Through the help of our technology department, Mike Stone and his predecessor, Ray Link, we were awarded a grant for $93,327.65 for Wi-FI installation and service,” Assistant Superintendant Riley Ramsey told the board. “At the time we did this only Providence was eligible, but it's possible that Sebree might qualify now.”
The grant will go for the full installation of a new Wi-Fi network. It was awarded by the Schools and Library Division of the FCDL.
“This will allow Providence students and teachers the ability to bring their own devices,” Riley said. “It's an intelligent design, so it will remember the device as the child moves from classroom to classroom.”
The network would allow the possibility that instead of purchasing new text books every few years, the school could instead purchase wireless devices such as a Nook or a tablet, which cost considerably less in some cases than a text book.
“For this to work, we’ve got to get the fiber optics to them, correct?” Jeff Pettit asked.
“No, Ramsey said. He said the network would work with the current internet service. “But for it to work quickly we need the fiber optics.”
The fiber optics project, which began in October, is scheduled to be done in time for the next school year, in plenty of time to have the Wi-Fi ready to go. That project was funded by a $500,000 grant from Universal Services Fund.
“The next item,” Ramsey said, “I have one school done, but what about the other schools? What about the high school? There is in conjunction with the company and the KDE, a five year no interest loan.”
For $245,000 he said that he could have the entire district ready to go with Wi-Fi in time for the next school year.
“We pay $49,000 a year for the next five years,” he said. “At the end of that time we pay one dollar and its paid off. I’m asking that you let me take this loan, so that we can have this ready to go by this fall.”
Ramsey said that he could get the loan payments out of his existing budget, so it would not cost the district any additional funds.
“So why am I doing this?” he asked. “We’re going digital. All of the surrounding districts are going digital. I’m simply trying to get ready so that our curriculum people can take a look at different ways of making deliveries to our schools.”
He said this could include students bringing their own devices from home, or the district providing a lab of wireless devices for students’ use.
“We’re actually pretty far behind when you look at the districts around us,” Stone said. “Our students already know a lot about technology and we’re holding them back.”
Ramsey said this technology could improve the district in other ways as well. It could make it possible for teachers to broadcast lectures and notes online for students who were absent or just wanted to check something they had missed in class, it would give them better access to AP classes from UK, Western and Murray and it could save the district money.
“Right now we spend a lot of money just backing up our computer systems,” he said. “Now we can just send the stuff out over the network.”
The board voted to approve the grant for Providence and the additional loan to update the rest of the district.
J-E News Editor
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