More than $1.8 million in technology upgrades are needed in the Richland School District to meet the demand of wireless devices.
Michael Leseberg, executive director of the district's information technology department, told the school board this week that the district's wireless networks can't handle the number of devices being brought online.
And as the district looks to move toward a digital curriculum, the networks could see even more traffic if privately owned devices from staff and students are allowed into the classroom.
"It's like we're trying to pour buckets of water into a tiny funnel," Leseberg told the Herald in explaining the demand on the networks.
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About $550,000 is needed to upgrade the wireless local area network in each district building. LANs link computers within a geographically limited area.
The other $1.3 million is for network switch upgrades, which would further increase capacity on the networks for wireless devices.
The networks were designed to accommodate small groups of teachers wanting to collaborate at school without having to locate a hard-wired internet connection, Leseberg said.
Now, more teachers are using wireless devices in their lessons -- sometimes their own.
"Today I had a request to have two personal tablets come onto the network to assist instruction. That's today alone," Leseberg told board members.
Leseberg said he would like to start making the upgrades as early as this summer. The board will consider the issue again before making a decision, though members indicated a willingness to move forward.
"Instructional practices are changing. This is the right direction for the district to be moving," said Rich Jansons, board chairman, in comments provided by the district.