Wireless upgrades coming to schools

New technology set to be installed as soon as the spring will allow students at two Clark-Pleasant schools to have Internet access in every single classroom.

This $672,000 project would give Clark-Pleasant Middle School and Whiteland Community High School the technology needed so that every student could have their own device in class, like students at Center Grove, Edinburgh, Indian Creek and Franklin already do. Currently, Clark-Pleasant school’s network can’t handle multiple devices, such as laptops or iPads, all getting online and on the school’s network.

But school officials don’t yet know how they would pay for those devices, so no decision has been made on whether the school district would take that step.

“I think it’s definitely the direction that we’re heading and that we need to go,” Clark-Pleasant Superintendent Patrick Spray said.

In May, Clark-Pleasant officials asked the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission to cover the costs to add new wireless routers, cords, switches and cables, initially estimated at $735,000. The redevelopment commission agreed to cover around 60 percent of the project, or about $403,000, since about 60 percent of the school district’s students live in the city of Greenwood.

Last week, the Clark-Pleasant school board agreed to move forward with the technology upgrades, and pay the rest of the cost.

The infrastructure upgrades will be done throughout the school year, mostly during school breaks when students will not be in the classrooms, Clark-Pleasant director of curriculum Cameron Rains said. Officials hope to have all the work done by the end of the school year.

But even while that work is being done, school officials are still determining whether to provide laptops or other devices to students once they enter the middle school. To do so would cost the school district more than $1 million, Spray said, or about $400 per student. Administrators have not determined how they will pay for new devices, or how much the school district would charge parents in rental fees, Spray said.

A decision on purchasing devices is expected to be made before the end of the year, Rains said.

In addition to considering buying devices for the middle school and high school, officials are also deciding on multiple changes to the school district at nearly every school building for the 2016-2017 school year. Every elementary school would house grades kindergarten through fifth grade, Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School will become another elementary school and Sawmill Woods Elementary School will be closed. Grade six will move to the middle school, which will make it one of the largest middle schools in the state.

So if officials do decide to give the students devices, both the high school and middle school may not both get them at the same time, Spray said. Since the middle school will be adding another grade level next year, purchasing new devices for the students could be too much change at once, Spray said.

During the next few months, school officials will be looking at other school districts’ policies, for everything from blocking or limiting social media sites to whether students are punished for not having their device charged when it is brought to school, Spray said.

First, administrators need to go back to the Greenwood redevelopment commission to finalize their agreement, which would list how much each organization will pay for the project, when payments need to be made and the deadline for installing the upgrades. Spray expects both groups to approve the agreement in September, he said.