School division seeks to build fiber optic network
When it comes to internet access, Mathews County Public Schools is lagging far behind neighboring school divisions. Bill Vrooman, the division’s technology coordinator, is trying to do something about that.
As a necessary first step, he is working to get a firm interested in constructing a district-wide Wide Area Network, a series of high-speed fiber optic cables that would connect the division’s three schools and the school board office. This WAN would allow for reliable and secure transmission of voice, video, data and internet access.
The school board issued a Request for Proposals earlier this month, soliciting bids for the project. A March 28 deadline has been set.
In the RFP, the county is being encouraged to piggyback onto this proposal to provide its own offices with fiber optic cable connectivity. While the county would likely see a cost savings by joining in the school division project, Vrooman said that part of the project would not be eligible for federal E-Rate funding.
E-Rate funds are administered by the Federal Communications Commission, providing discounts to assist schools and libraries in obtaining affordable telecommunications and internet access. The discount, Vrooman said, is based on student participation in the division’s free and reduced lunch program, with this project currently eligible for somewhere between 50 and 70 percent financial support.
He said this most recent push for improving connectivity came about following a meeting last fall at the governor’s mansion. It was an informal meeting, with a number of local school division technology coordinators attending, along with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, staff from the Virginia Department of Education, and representatives from EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit organization dedicated to upgrading internet access in every school classroom in America.