(Shenandoah) – Shenandoah school officials are working to improve internet access to students outside of the classroom.
Meeting via ZOOM late Monday afternoon, the Shenandoah School Board approved a proposal from SWIFT Services for access points and switches, providing more so-called “hot spots” for online learning. Shenandoah School Superintendent Dr. Kerri Nelson says internet accessibility in and outside of the school environment is a part of the equity component of the district’s Return to Learn plan.
“The greatest thing it will do for us is provide greater access and more equitable access for our students who, perhaps, are low income, and don’t have access in their home environments,” said Nelson, “or adequate access to work and learn from home.”
SWIFT Co-Manager Tom Steinholfson says his company will serve as the transporter of a broadband signal to a half-dozen locations within Shenandoah city limits.
“All we are at this point is helping facilitate, and making sure we can bring a broadband signal—300 meg—and let the schools choose where those locations are,” said Steinholfson. “They’ll be fiber-optically connected. The school will purchase equipment. They’ll put out a good, strong wifi signal, and the students will bring their district-owned device. That signal would have the same wifi SSIB or password, and those students would be connection.”
Steinholfson says his company is working with IAMO Telephone to provide a hot spot in Northboro, and is hoping to enlist another company to cover Farragut. Nelson stresses that only students’ equipment will have access the hot spots.
“It wouldn’t give everyone in town access to whatever they want,” said Nelson. “They would have password access to that network. It would be like being at school in their environments. There are some protections. We do have to follow CIPA—which is the Child Internet Protection Act, and we will continue to provide all of those safety nets.”
Steinholfson, however, says the hot spots should be located in areas of town already covered by SWIFT. Currently, the company provides services to approximately half of the community. The cost of SWIFT’s services is estimated at $15,000.
Additionally, the board approved the purchase of 220 Lenovo chromebook tablets plus licenses and protective cases totaling more than $56,975, and 360 RTI computer bags totaling $6,840. Funding for the SWIFT services plus the tablets are coming from the district’s CARES Act funding.