Hall County schools have been awarded a $565,189 grant from the state to help cover the costs of upgrading the district’s Wi-Fi infrastructure, district officials announced Monday at a school board meeting.
The grant will provide about one-third of the funding for a project the district had already planned, adding high capacity Wi-Fi access points to every instructional space in the district, Aaron Turpin, the district’s director of technology, said at the meeting.
Students and staff will have access to Wi-Fi in every classroom as well as in media centers and other spaces within the schools.
The district already has high-speed wireless Internet access, but Turpin said the infrastructure that delivers that access has been pushed beyond capacity.
“Our Wi-Fi is saturated all the time,” Turpin said, “so either you can’t get on, or once you get on you have a lower-quality service.”
Four years ago, the district installed infrastructure to support Wi-Fi access for every student at the middle and high school level, but enrollment has grown by about 500 students since then, and the technology that students and staff use has changed.
“The challenge we have now is people with more than one device,” Turpin said.
At the elementary level, around half the students can connect at the same time.
“We’re just increasing the capacity of it, modernizing it,” Turpin said.
The district planned to spend around $1.5 million to upgrade Wi-Fi infrastructure. This will be offset by the grant, which is part of the Connections for Classrooms program.
Connections for Classrooms announced $36.7 million in grants for 102 school districts and one state charter school Monday. A total of 145 districts applied for the grants, Turpin said.
The grants are funded by the state Department of Education, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement and the One Georgia Authority.
The awards, which are all for improving high-speed Internet access, span from $5,259 for Chattooga County to $8,426,097 for DeKalb County.
Turpin said the infrastructure should be in place districtwide for Hall schools within 14 months.
He said schools are increasingly taking advantage of digital learning tools, and that 14,000 students are connected to the district’s network at any given time.
“We have designed systems that will do whatever the teacher needs for that particular instruction,” he said. “What we’re doing is providing tools that play well in Hall arenas.”
One of those tools is Google Docs, a free file-sharing service that allows multiple users to view and edit documents.
Turpin said that, in the past seven days, 17,000 files have been created in Google Docs by the district.
The district also uses iPads and other devices as instructional tools.