City schools aim for total Wi-Fi access by end of year

Rick Wagner • Sep 7, 2012 at 3:11 AM

KINGSPORT — All city school facilities should have building-wide wireless Internet by the end of the year, school officials said Thursday night.

It is part of a forthcoming technology vision for the school system, the next step of which may include providing iPads or other wireless devices for all teachers.

The city school board in an unusually short one-hour meeting voted 7-0 to fund wireless Internet access for all elementary schools and two other Kingsport City Schools facilities, using part of the Sullivan County property tax rate increase to fund it.

When added to an already approved project for Dobyns-Bennett High School and Robinson and Sevier middle schools, which gets under way next week, the system will have Wi-Fi at the eight elementary schools, Cora Cox Academy, an alternative school, and the Palmer Center pre-school.

John Payne, director of technology for KCS, told the Board of Education the project would cost $215,400, and Finance Director David Frye suggested adding a contingency fee of $10,000 for a total appropriation of $225,400.

Asked by BOE President Randy Montgomery, Payne explained that each of the wireless access points in the school would support 30 to 50 computers, iPads or other wireless devices, compared to residential access points usually designed to serve five to six devices.

Also, the installation was complicated and made more expensive at Johnson Elementary because of asbestos, while at Roosevelt Elementary part of an existing system was paid for by federal e-Rate funds and must remain in place another year. The new equipment will be saved and installed after the old equipment can be written off, Payne said.

Payne said the previously approved D-B work, including 126 access points and a system to disable attempts to set up wireless access points using 3G or 4G cell phones, should be done in about two weeks.

"I'm pretty confident by the end of December, all our schools, all our locations, will be wireless," Payne said.

The board also voted 7-0 to approve the first amendment to the 2012-13 budget, which included the Wi-Fi funding and other things to be funded by the property tax rate increase.

Nine cents of the increase was designated for education, and KCS is projected to receive about $920,000 from that. However, Frye recommended the amendment include an increase of only $731,500 because the original school budget, approved before the County Commission voted to increase the countywide property tax rate, already had built in an increase of $150,000 to $160,000.

The budget amendment also decreased the Basic Education Program funding by $50,000, to $23.558 million and increased the budget by $204,650 to fund the previously approved 2.5 percent pay increase for employees, which had been 2 percent in the original budget.

In addition, it took $80,000 for the county rate increase to pay for the position of Race to the Top coordinator, moving that position from the RTTT funding to the general purpose school fund. The remaining RTTT funding will be used for additional staff development.

The amendment also adds $15,200 to the Wellmont Foundation's $38,000 in funding for a second athletic trainer at Dobyns-Bennett.

The net effect of the amendment, which must get Board of Mayor and Aldermen approval, was an increase in the budget of $681,500, arrived at through the $731,500 increase from county property taxes and a $50,000 decrease from BEP funding.

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