School to get Internet upgrade
By Josh O’Gorman
STAFF WRITER | September 19,2013
CHITTENDEN — Barstow Memorial School was built to last, but it wasn’t built for wireless Internet.
By a unanimous vote Monday night, the Barstow School Board authorized Principal Karen Prescott to spend up to $15,000 to upgrade the school’s wireless Internet system.
The school recently purchased 15 Chromebooks — laptop computers using Google Chrome as its operating system — to allow students to connect to the Internet for materials to augment their lessons, but the connections are slow.
Some students can’t connect at all or find themselves disconnected in the middle of a lesson, said fifth-grade teacher Joanne Williamson, who described the current situation as “a little frustrating” for students and teachers alike.
“The signal seems to be better in some parts of the room than others and the kids have been really good about moving around, but it’s still a little frustrating,” she said.
The problem appears to be twofold. First, the brick structure of the 1930s-era school impedes the wireless signal. Second, the new Chromebooks are using more bandwidth than anticipated and the current wireless system cannot handle all of the electronic devices that are trying to connect to it.
The problem is with the wireless system and not the new Chromebooks, said Prescott, who took the Chromebooks to Neshobe School in Brandon and found they worked just fine there.
One School Board member asked how frequently students at other schools access the Internet during the day. John Castle, superintendent of the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, said students at other schools will use Chromebooks anywhere from 40 percent to 60 percent of the day, depending upon what they’re working on.
Students and teachers were not the only ones frustrated by the situation. The school recently installed a wireless Internet system, and Board Chairman Ralph Quintana expressed disappointment that the current system isn’t up to the task.
He also said any delays by the School Board — which meets once a month — would increase the amount of time students could not access the Internet.
“If we wait another 30 days, that’s another 30 days the kids can’t use the computers,” Quintana said.
Prescott said she had received a quote of just under $18,000 to perform the upgrade, and will now have to shop around to find a quote for less than $15,000.