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Franklin Regional officials eye virtual IT system

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Wireless connectivity might become a virtual reality at Franklin Regional next school year.

Brad Schrecengost, district supervisor of technology, wants to move about 800 computers at the high school and middle school onto a virtual system as part of $640,500 in technology replacement and upgrade projects next year.

The virtualization project, which could cost as much as $200,000, would enable the district save money on storage and hardware, Schrecengost said.

“We could push a Windows desktop out onto a CPU, iPad or laptop,” he said. “We could extend the life of new computers substantially. It's cheaper to do a virtualization than to replace computers.”

The server-virtualization project would enable the district to move information and computer desktops onto a cloud platform — a virtual storage space that a computer can tap into to access information and programs.

Schrecengost also proposed converting Heritage, Newlonsburg and Sloan to a wireless network. The elementary schools have a 9-year-old wireless network that is limited to the main office and library, he said. The $80,000 project would enable teachers using tablets and laptops in the classroom to access online resources easier.

For instance, several special-education teachers are using tablets and other portable devices to work with students, he said. Many of the apps used on the iPad tablets require an Internet connection — and iPad tablets aren't capable of connecting to the Internet using a wired connection.

While Schrecengost said there is a “real need” for a wireless system at the elementary school, at least one school board member isn't so sure.

Board Vice President Joe Seymour said he wants to know if a wireless system is the best way for the district to spend money at the elementary level.

“The issue for me is, what's the leverage there?” Seymour said. “Wireless is great; the question is, where else can we take the money to get more leverage out of it?”

Going wireless is an inevitability, Schrecengost said. State officials are mulling when state standardized testing will be required to be completed online — a change that could happen as early as 2015. Right now, the district can't handle having every student in grades three through five at all three elementary schools on a computer at the same time.

Schrecengost said if the schools had wireless capabilities, laptop computer carts from the middle and high schools could be loaned to the elementary students. Districtwide, there are about 2,400 computers, Schrecengost said. About 800 are laptops funded by Classrooms for the Future grants.

At the high school, officials are trying to phase out new computer purchases by introducing a “Bring Your Own Device” policy. That policy is being piloted by four teachers; however, if the state goes through with its online testing proposal, students will not be able to test on their own laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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