County schools get fiber optics
Technology in the Marshall County School District is getting a huge boost.
The district has received E-rate funding of $1,695,904 to create an all fiber optic network between the central office and all the campuses.
"In order to get the internet and other data from the central office out to the schools and back, we currently use a system of five microwave (wireless) towers that run at a maximum speed of 400 megabits per second," said Todd Sanderson, director of technology for the school district. "The new fiberwide area network will be able to run at 10 gigabits per second, which is 25 times faster than our current network."
The E-rate program is directed by the Universal Service Administration Company under the management of the Federal Communications Commission. It offers funding to help most libraries and schools in the United States get affordable internet access and other telecommunications-type services.
The application process began in January. The Marshall County School District requested $2,224,841 and was awarded the $1,695,904 on May 28. The district hired Rodabough Education Group Inc., a Mississippi consulting firm specializing in E-rate applications, to help dot all the i's and cross all the t's in its application.
The program provides funding based on need, Sanderson said, and need is determined by free and reduced lunch numbers.
"In Marshall County, we are classified as a 90 percent district," he said. "So, when we apply for E-rate funding and are awarded 90 percent of the total cost, the district only pays the 10 percent that is left."
Sanderson said the new network will be more reliable.
"Sometimes the weather has a huge impact on our wireless system now," he "This will be faster and able to handle more traffic, which will be huge if we go to more digital learning solutions as a result of the pandemic and school closures or limited attendance."
C Spire was awarded the contract for the fiber optic network. The company expects to have the new network up and running by July 1.
"I will be surprised if they hit the goal, but I am certainly hopeful that this will be in place in August," Sanderson said.
The fiber optic network is long overdue for the district.
"This is something I have been working on and trying to make happen for six years," he said. "Every year a group called the Education Superhighway would come out with this report that talked about the kind of connectivity that school districts across the country have. In Mississippi, there were always these seven schools in the state that showed up as having no fiber only seven in the whole state and that was us.
"It feels pretty good that it is finally going to happen, that we get our name off that list."
The Marshall County School District is also working on a one-to-one device plan for the upcoming school year to facilitate distance learning. Plus, it is putting wifi on all campuses to help give people in the parking lots access to the internet 24/7.