Calhoun County schools to connect faster to Internet
by Laura Johnson
Feb 16, 2013 | 6639 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE — The Calhoun County Board of Education is planning an upgrade to its schools’ links to the Internet, in most cases at least doubling connection speeds.

At the start of a special board work session held at Jacksonville State University, technology director Jenel Travis presented an outline of the system’s plan to expand its Internet capabilities. In the past year the number of devices dependent on the county school system’s Internet infrastructure has doubled, prompting officials to expand bandwidth, or the amount of information that can be moved across an Internet connection in a given amount of time.

Last year roughly 4,500 computers were dependent on the county’s system. That figure shot up to as many as 9,500 devices this year when the system began allowing students to bring their own smartphones, tablets and laptop computers to class, Travis said.

With the exception of Saks High School, the system is asking the state to double the bandwidth for the system’s schools. Saks High, Middle and Elementary schools are linked to the county school system’s technology building next door, and that Internet connection is funded locally, Travis said. That connection will see a tenfold increase in bandwidth, she added. The technology center needs more bandwidth because all the system’s wireless information is transmitted from the center, she said.

The system’s other buildings and schools can also expect to see bandwidth bump up. Elementary and middle schools that are not connected to the system’s high schools would see bandwidth increase by a factor of five.

The system’s career technology school, maintenance and transportation buildings share wireless infrastructure. Employees and students at those buildings can expect to see bandwidth double, Travis said.

In other business, the board members:

• Heard from Birmingham-based attorney Whit Colvin on the system’s attempt to be cleared from federal oversight required because of the settlement of a civil-rights-era lawsuit over racial segregation. The board has been seeking to end the federal oversight for three years, Colvin said.

Under the lawsuit’s settlement terms, the school system is required to seek a federal judge’s approval when making any significant changes to its facilities or attendance zones to ensure the changes won’t move the system back toward racial segregation. The system must also track the numbers of minority faculty members.

Colvin said the system will reach a milestone in the case this summer, at which point a federal judge can determine whether the system is ready to be freed of the federal oversight.

The judge’s decision will hinge on whether the county has met the terms agreed upon by the Justice Department and plaintiffs in the case.

• Discussed the quality of school lunches, a topic that generated interest among board members during the campaign season last year.

“We have made a lot of progress in the last six to eight months, but we’re not there yet,” Superintendent Joe Dyar said. “Some lunchroom food in this county is really pretty good and some is really pretty bad”

The system’s lunch program has undergone a major overhaul this year as it made adjustments to comply with new federal nutrition guidelines.

Mary Stonebreaker, director of the child nutrition program, said the system is working to update lunchroom equipment and dining areas throughout the system. Additionally, the system has increased the number of lunch selections available and is working to increase the number of students that receive breakfast at school.

Despite the changes at least one board member is not satisfied with the quality of school lunches.

“Can we not push the envelope a little bit to make the food better?” board member and local father Tobi Burt said, adding that students throw away food they don’t like.

Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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