Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Education

Hernando School District adds bandwidth to its Internet connection

BROOKSVILLE — J.D. Floyd K-8 principal Rick Markford hears the complaints weekly:

The school district's Internet connection is too slow.

Teachers tell him they get booted offline, have trouble streaming videos and that students are unable to finish online assignments in the required time due to the slow speeds.

It's caused frustration.

"It just causes schedules to be delayed," Markford said.

But Markford, and the district, hope the slow speeds are now a thing of the past.

The district last week doubled its bandwidth, which will increase browsing speeds and decrease download times, said Melissa Harts, the district's director of technology and information services.

"It's like increasing a highway from a two-lane to a four-lane," said superintendent Bryan Blavatt. "I think it helps significantly. It gives us greater capacity. It doesn't solve all of our problems. But it does, in fact, go a long way."

The extra bandwidth, which was made possible by a grant from the Hernando County Education Foundation, will cost about $21,000 for the year, Harts said.

It will be most important during peak usage times, which typically come in the morning and early afternoon — the times when most students take tests and do projects.

"I feel confident we have the capacity to handle peak periods," Blavatt said.

Harts said it's extremely important for students and teachers to have fast Internet connections.

"It alleviates the frustration," she said.

Some within the district are noticing the difference.

"We're already getting some impressions from folks that things are moving quicker as far as the use of our technology and software," Blavatt said at a Tuesday meeting.

Sean Chapman, the School Board's newly appointed student representative, said he has heard fewer complaints than he has in the past.

Nature Coast Technical High School principal Toni-Ann Noyes said she has had some problems in the past, but nothing too significant or that unexpected.

"It's just the nature of the beast," she said.

But she was pleased with the bandwidth increase.

"In today's day of technology, we have to make sure we keep up with Internet speeds so we are able to utilize all the Internet," Noyes said.

That's especially important with the growing reliance on online testing throughout the state.

"We still have significant demands from technology that we're going to have to address in the next couple of years," Blavatt said, noting both bandwidth and hardware requirements.

He said standardized testing and end-of-course exams have put a real strain on the district's technology.

With the improvements, the district is now using about 20 percent of its bandwidth capacity, Harts said. Officials will start looking at adding more when the district reaches 75 percent.

There are no current projections as to when the district will need to increase its bandwidth again, she said.

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected]abay.com or (352) 848-1432.

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