Walton — Students with smartphones at Lewis Cass High School should be able to take them to school next year to use on a new wireless network to be installed over the summer.
The Southeastern school board voted Thursday night to spend $71,299 to equip the high school with full Wi-Fi coverage in all classrooms not already equipped with wired Internet access.
“That pretty much maxes out what we budgeted,” Superintendent John Bevan said in the special meeting Thursday.
The contract with One-Community IT, a communications technology provider that specializes in working with schools, also covers Wi-Fi for much of Galveston and Thompson elementary schools.
Having the wireless network will set the corporation up for a bring-your-own wireless device policy, where the school will provide some kind of wireless device only to students who don’t already have their own. The network would also lay the groundwork for a one-to-one computing program in the future, should the corporation decide to pursue that.
“Once we have the wireless communications, we can go either way,” Bevan said Friday. “In the meantime it allows us to do a bring-your-own-device setup, which is a savings for taxpayers.”
But since over half of Lewis Cass High School students already carry a smartphone, according to student surveys, need for a one-to-one program may be only short-term.
“The prevalence of smartphones would seem to indicate that before you can go to a one-to-one, everybody’s going to have one,” said Bevan. “One-to-one is always a possiblity, but that’s step two” after building the wireless network.
The school board has yet to decide how students without smartphones will get to access the network. Bevan said the corporation will investigate what options there are to lend devices to students.
“We’re not going to leave anybody out in the cold,” he said. “It’s just a matter of how we go about it.”
The new system will replace spotty wireless coverage that already exists in a few parts of the high school. It should be capable of supporting full classrooms of students accessing it at the same time, Bevan said.
School administrators have been exploring the capabilities of the One-Community network over the last six months.
Earlier, other technology companies either did not maintain communication with the corporation or could not provide reliable network access when two nearby classrooms’ worth of wireless devices connected to the network at the same time.