Keller district staff, students and parents should notice some significant upgrades to the technology infrastructure when the next school year starts.At a recent board meeting, trustees approved almost $1.5 million from 2008 bond savings for online improvements.One of the biggest upgrades is increasing the district’s Internet bandwidth connection from 700 megabytes to 3 gigabytes (3G), along with improving the firewall and filtering, at a cost of $280,000.“We have so many students with devices that they’re allowed to use that speed is important,” said board President Jim Stitt. “We want to give them ready access to information.”Joe Griffin, chief technology officer, said that the cost of higher bandwidth has dropped so dramatically in recent months that the district could obtain the 3G-service at the same rate, but the funds are needed to upgrade hardware to handle the larger load.Griffin said, “All of our users will see an increase in the speed of the Internet they use in classrooms and on campuses.”Other changes will be implemented to make online resources easily accessible on all devices.Technology department staff members are working with a consultant to improve district, campus and teacher websites. Griffin said that users would not see a lot of changes to the district site but would be able to view it from smartphones and tablets.Sites for individual schools and teachers will get more extensive revisions after officials get feedback from administrators, teachers, students, parents and community members on features that will work best for them. The cost of website upgrades is $200,000.The employee email system will also be enhanced for better mobility and functionality at a cost of $150,000.Several improvements will occur behind the scenes to replace outdated equipment, including $250,000 for network hub servers at Trinity Springs Middle School and Willis Lane Elementary School. Each hub serves a group of neighboring campuses. Another $235,000 will be spent to get better UPS (unlimited power supply) systems for back-up power when the electricity goes out. Griffin said district phones rely on UPS systems during outages.District Internet phone system servers will also be improved at a cost of $250,000.Griffin said that the projects (all for technology six to seven years old or older) should be completed over the summer.“This will dramatically reduce what we’re going to ask for in the 2014 bond,” he said.
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231 Twitter: @SandraEngelland