BROOKSVILLE — With new testing requirements and the increasing use of technology in classrooms, the Hernando County School District is facing huge needs in the coming years for faster Internet speeds and connections.
At their meeting this week, School Board members unanimously approved two items that will substantially increase connection speeds across the district.
The first increases the network speed from each school to the district office by 10 times. The second increases the district's connection to the outside world by about six times, which will support the higher-speed connections with the schools.
"If you can imagine, we're building an infrastructure," said Walter Paschke, the manager of network support in the district's division of technology and information services. "We're expecting to have a city. We're building the roads now, knowing we're going to have traffic in the city."
The annual cost of the two projects is about $51,500, but that will be reduced substantially by a federal program that discounts telecommunication services. With the discount, the district will pay about $11,000 per year.
The district's cost will be paid with a $50,000 grant from the Hernando County Education Foundation. The money will cover the bandwidth increase for at least four years, said telecommunications manager Paul Leftwich.
School Board members expressed delight with the grant — and the prospect of faster speeds.
"Anything we can do to improve slowness of the computers at the schools would be wonderful," said board member Cynthia Moore, a retired teacher who volunteers in the schools. "It's got to be better than this. I may sit certain times of the day and wait and wait and wait for something to come up. To improve the bandwidth would be great."
District technology officials compared the changes to a highway system.
The district's connection to the outside is like an interstate, handling the most traffic. The individual connections between the district and schools are like smaller roads, handling less overall traffic.
The increased bandwidth will provide a faster connection for student instruction, computer-based testing and Internet access. It will also move the district forward in providing the bandwidth recommended by the Florida Department of Education.
The DOE suggests 100 megabytes per 1,000 students.
"We're getting very close to what DOE is recommending for Internet bandwidth for all," Leftwich said.
The bandwidth can be expanded down the road, if needed.
Upgrading the district's technology infrastructure has been a big push in recent years.
"We're going to see some real improvement," district spokesman Roy Gordon said of the upgrades approved this week.
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (352) 848-1432 or on Twitter @HernandoTimes.