Providing wireless Internet to students
Every student in Glenn County is set to benefit from high-speed wireless Internet as part of a nearly $400,000 communications project by the Glenn County Office of Education.
The county board approved a project Wednesday that calls for the construction of two communication towers.
The 100-foot towers will be constructed at the county administration buildings in Orland and Willows, officials said.
"It's a big project and a lot of money," said Trustee Janice Cannon of Elk Creek. "But our job is to give opportunities to students."
Tracey Quarne, Glenn County superintendent of schools, said the investment will mean big changes to the way students are taught across the county, especially those in the rural areas.
The project has the support of district officials, particularly those who have struggled for years with existing communication infrastructure.
Princeton, for example, is serviced by a connection that has been inadequate for the district's technology needs, said Superintendent John Greene.
Greene said the wireless project would allow teachers to use more Internet-based teaching resources and expand their students' educational opportunities.
At Lake Elementary School, Superintendent Nikol Baker said Internet tasks that should take five minutes — such as updating the school's website — typically take 20 to 30 minutes because the Internet connection is so sporadic.
Most of the rural schools are connected with very slow 1.5 Mb T-1 connections that school officials say are barely able to meet the demands for the Internet, nor are they compatible with new technology.
"Our older desktop computers served us well for a few years, but now we must upgrade to the newer, faster laptops, iPads and other portable technology," said Plaza Superintendent Grant Sandro. "In order for us to be successful, we must have the best, fastest and most reliable Internet connection possible."
Quarne said one of the reasons why school districts and the county Office of Education are so excited about the getting the project completed is that pen and paper testing will be a thing of the past when the new Common Core Standards are implemented in 2014 and students start taking on-line versions of the state tests.
Without new wireless connections, schools would not be able to meet the new state requirement, Quarne said.
The communication project will also save the county money in the long run, said Roberto Herniman, county technology director.
Herniman said the existing cost for Internet services through AT&T is approximately $112, 000 annually.
The ongoing costs for Internet services after construction of county-owned towers will be about $40,000 annually.
The towers will be built on 100-square-foot concrete slab and will begin once building permits are secured from Willows and Orland.
Herniman said he plans to give a presentation about the project to the Willows and Orland planning commissions and city councils.
Capay Superintendent Jim Scribner praised the project and said the towers would give the schools the kind of capability they have needed for years.
"The Internet connection that AT&T provides for Capay School has always been marginal at best," he said. "The connection is not always reliable and can sometimes be down for days during bad weather. We are also limited by the size of the T-1 line, which doesn't allow us full access to educational websites offering streaming of videos and clips that can be used to enhance and expand the educational offering for our students."
Willows and Orland school districts also support the project, even though they have high-speed links to the Internet.
In addition to the school districts, students in Glenn County court school and AB 109 probationers who are entitled to a high school education will also benefit from the high-speed towers, Quarne said.
"We won't have to worry about providing a school facility for AB 109 offenders," said Quarne. "We will loan them a laptop and send them home."
Herniman said he estimates the project will be completed in about six months.
The cost of the towers is a general fund expense, Quarne said, but the county will petition the state to use lottery funding for the project.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.