Woodlake Unified moves closer to Wi-Fi

The Sun-Gazette

woodlake – When students prepare their backpacks before heading home for the day after their last class, it may be filled with books, binders, and folders. However, students may be missing one of the most important tools for the 21st Century that won’t fit in their book bags, the Internet.
Last month Superintendent Drew Sorenson noted to the Woodlake Unified School Districts (WUSD) Board that 40 percent of students do not have access to the Internet when they go home. This is a conservative number by Sorensen’s estimation. When students lack access to the Internet they are restricted to the other facets of learning the district can offer, but Sorenson and his staff is prepared to take steps to fix that problem.
WUSD has been in negotiations with Kings County Office of Education (KCOE) to acquire the necessary parts of their cellular infrastructure to provide Wi-Fi to every student household in the Woodlake school district. The signal would run to the Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE), before being sent out to WUSD where the signal would then network through towers strategically located around the city.
Students would require a my-fi device, window device, or an antenna to accept the signal. According to Sorenson the my-fi device is the most cost effective option running $90 per device, as opposed to an antenna that would cost $160 plus the cost of installation. In order to determine what device is required depends on how close the household is to a tower. Households within one mile of a tower only need a my-fi device. Households 1.3 miles out would need a window, and those farthest away would need an antenna. Therefore, the more towers the district implements the fewer antennas they would have to install, which would eliminate the most costly option.
Currently the board is discussing whether to add a fourth tower or install three. The board’s decision should be made easier as Glen Billington, assistant superintendent, discovered a surplus of towers that the district already owns. These 40-foot towers were donated to the school district between five and 10 years ago during the remodeling of the Kaweah Lake parking lot.
After clearing the structural soundness of the tower with an engineering firm WUSD frequently works with, the district is only left with the task of wiring them for networking capabilities and placing them in the ground.
As of now, the towers would be placed at the performance arts building, the central kitchen and Stone Corral. An additional tower would be placed at the ag farm site if the board decides to move forward with a fourth tower.
If the board approves the measure during their July meeting, the project would be completed approximately six months later. Then students would be able to check out a laptop along with a receiving device to connect their household to the Internet.
In order to prevent students from locating unauthorized sites the signal will be filtered through the district. The filter prevents unauthorized streaming of videos, or the location of other non-approved sites.
“That’s the beauty of it coming through the district first, it filters out all of the sites they shouldn’t be on,” said Billington.
Student laptops will stream content at a 2 megabyte per second speed. The speed is enough to help students work together online with classmates over projects.
“We can expect students to collaborate and have virtual meetings just like you’d do at work,” said Billington.
Woodlake Unified would serve up to 1600 households and under the three tower plan would service up to 1300 with a my-fi device. Approximately 200 would be served with an intermediary window device, and between 60 and 90 homes would require an antenna.

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