Technology upgrades at West Jeff Schools

Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
A pair of new Jefferson Local Board of Education members, along with a returning board member, are sworn into office during the first meeting of the new year: (from left) Shelton Stanley, Lorena Roberts, and Rhonda Tabor. During the board’s organizational meeting, Whitney Duemmel was elected board president and Roberts was elected vice president.

(Posted Jan. 11, 2024)

By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer

Technology is an integral part of education, and it is up to Jefferson Local Schools’ Curt Dennis to keep district computers and an expanding web of systems up and running for students and staff.

Dennis, the district’s technology director, updated board members during a Jan. 9 meeting on upgrades in 2023 and what is planned for 2024.

“We completed an upgrade of the district’s WiFi that has been a welcomed change,” he said.

“While our old system was pretty stable, it was older, had less functionality, and when our onsite controller appliance had a hardware failure, we had some major issues with access points no longer working.”

In addition to providing WiFi to larger districts and smaller ones like Jefferson Local, the new system provider, Extreme Networks, also works with the NFL, Major League Baseball, NHL, and Nascar venues.

Classrooms now have individual access points for ease of connection.

“During the install, we dialed in each room access point to give a better experience within the classroom and also added more access points at different locations and continue to look where we might need more,” Dennis said.

The upgrade and its installation cost just under $78,000, however, due to government funding through the Federal Communications Commission, the district’s cost share was approximately $23,000.

“Access points typically need replaced every six years or so to stay current,” Dennis added.

An upgrade to the public address/bell system at Norwood Elementary was completed over Christmas break. The high school/middle school bell system was upgraded last summer.

The systems were 18 years old and so outdated, they used old daylight savings time settings and needed to be updated manually.

“We also had to hook up a laptop or desktop to the system any time we wanted to change a bell schedule (for situations like a time change or exam schedule), and we were limited to how many schedules we could have and which rooms received the bell,” Dennis said.

“This was especially a problem at the high school/middle school where we needed more bell schedules and had rooms that were multipurpose like the band and choir rooms.”

The new system is web-based for ease of use and allows for unlimited schedules and pinpoint bell rings.

“The high school was never able to have an exam schedule and had to rely on the PA system to make announcements to change classrooms. We were able to build that schedule and make it easier on staff and students,” Dennis explained.

“During the Norwood upgrade, we were able to ensure that all areas could hear the bells and announcements, where in the past, there were dead zones. This has been a very positive experience, and we have only heard good things at both locations.”

The cost of the upgrade for both buildings was approximately $41,000. In addition, all of the PCs at the middle school and high school were upgraded to Windows 11 during the summer and are on a five-year replacement cycle.

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