Idaho schools flock to state wireless program

Eighty percent of Idaho school districts and charter schools eligible to participate in the state’s contract to install wireless equipment have signed up, the Idaho Department of Education reports.

Two hundred high schools and  junior highs  representing 90,000 students across the state will get upgraded wireless equipment for laptops, tablets and smart phones.

Schools should be connected by March 2014.

Participating Treasure Valley school districts include Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Kuna and Middleton.

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Boise School District officials spoke with the Education Department and the company installing wireless equipment before making its decision to join the state program. Boise will expand its wireless capability to both teachers and students with the new equipment.

Boise district has often criticized the Education Department for a one-size-fits-all approach to educational technology issues, such as the failed Students Come First laws that would have put laptops in the hands of every Idaho high schooler.

“At its core, this is an infrastructure project, not a device project,” said Don Coberly, district superintendent. “We believe that it’s much more appropriate for the state to help us build a highway than to tell us what kind of cars we need to buy.”

The response for state help with wireless installation shows “it is clear schools are eager for this connectivity so they can provide teachers with the tools and resources necessary to meet the needs of every student,” said Tom Luna, superintendent of public instruction

Luna was criticized by lawmakers and others for his handling of the contract, which opponents said went to a company that had political ties to the superintendent.

State Sen. Dean Cameron, co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee, complained Luna used $2.5 million in one-time money appropriated by lawmakers to sign a multi-year contract with Education Networks of America. Cameron had said he wants a resolution to the contract dispute and won’t rule out seeking to defund the program when lawmakers meet in January.

Minidoka County Joint District, which is in Cameron’s district, opted into the state-funded wireless installation.

Posted in In The Classroom