July 21, 2018

Internet speeds at schools set for boost

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Internet access at Williston Central School is poised to get faster and double in capacity this summer.

The Champlain Valley School Board approved a $112,000 investment Tuesday in new wifi infrastructure, including the replacement of 50 wifi access points scattered throughout the school. Seventy access points at Champlain Valley Union High School will also be replaced.

The timing of the overhaul is ideal at WCS as remodeling of classrooms and common spaces over the past year has slowed the existing network. New metal air ducts in ceilings associated with an improved heating and ventilation system are the suspected culprits, Williston Lead Principal Greg Marino said.

“We definitely have had more challenges this year,” said Marino. “We didn’t anticipate the renovation would impact the wifi as much as it did. There is all sorts of metal that never existed before.”

Renovations to the building are on pace for an August completion. That will give Champlain Valley School District Director of Network Services Mike Kanfer enough time to install and determine the optimal locations for the new wifi access points before the start of school.

According to Kanfer, the new units from Ruckus Wireless are able to handle up to 200 devices connecting simultaneously, double the capacity of the existing units.

“It will definitely improve the classroom experience,” Kanfer said. “People will notice the speed difference.”

The load on the wifi system at CVU and WCS has exploded in the past few years as the schools have provided a laptop (Google’s Chromebook) to each student to use during the school day. Simultaneously, bandwidth-intensive video and audio streaming has increased, Kanfer said.

Internet-connected laptops are now embedded in the learning environment throughout the district.

“We’re getting to the point where students use their Chromebooks as a tool, like a pencil,” Marino said. “It’s always there at the ready.”

Schools in the district operate on two internet systems, according to Kanfer, a secure network that students, teachers and administrators work on and a public network for visitors. The public network is password protected during the school day and open without a password after hours for people using the buildings for events or meetings.

The new infrastructure will also improve the speed and capacity of the public network, Kanfer said.

The district plans to move the access points that are being replaced at CVU, Shelburne Community School and Williston Central to Allen Brook, Charlotte Central and Hinesburg Community schools over the next year.

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