Officials: Schools need improved wireless network

Clark-Pleasant students could get laptops or tablets as early as next year, if the city of Greenwood helps the school district upgrade its wireless network.

Students enrolled at Center Grove and Indian Creek schools have iPads, and Franklin students are finishing their first year with Chromebook laptops. Those kind of 1-to-1 programs, in which all students are equipped with their own devices, haven’t been part of Clark-Pleasant’s plans.

Now, students could get devices as soon as the 2016-17 school year, Superintendent Patrick Spray said.

School leaders haven’t worked out what kind of devices the school would use or who would get them, he said, but a plan to upgrade the wireless network capability in the high school, middle school and intermediate school would allow the district to launch the program.

“I’m not sure that we have that in stone. What I’d like to do is get this project done and then be able to launch some kind of 1-to-1 in the ’16 to ’17 school year. Are all the pieces in place yet? No, but this would be a huge boost,” Spray said.

Clark-Pleasant has wanted to add technology, but cost has been a major hurdle for the school district, which loses millions of tax dollars each year due to property tax caps. The district has cut spending on technology and capital projects and bus replacement in recent years in order to pay debt and keep schools operating.

The school district is requesting about $736,000 in tax-increment financing district money from Greenwood to pay for cables, switches and other equipment to improve the wireless network. That’s a necessary step because the system currently doesn’t have enough capacity for all students to have their own devices.

“While we have some wireless access points in the building, we don’t have a wireless network that would hold 1,000 kids if they had devices. This puts us in a position that would allow us to move to a 1-to-1,” Spray said.

Clark-Pleasant wants to incorporate more devices into the classroom to help promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills, but educators also want to use devices to improve communication skills and better prepare students for using technology in the workplace, Spray said.

The added technology would allow the district to establish a Guaranteed Graduate Program, in which the school district would partner with local employers to provide training for graduates who might fall short in job skills.

“If you hire a Whiteland graduate and they’re not prepared, we will work to get them remediated to get them up to speed,” Spray said.