The Oregon City Schools District will be replacing its current T1 Internet connections with a new fiber network that will connect all of the Oregon City Schools to Clay High School.
If the engineering, permitting and building processes go as planned, the fiber network will be in place for the 2009-2010 school year, according to Nathan Quigg, the district’s technology director.
With the improved network, students and staff will experience a huge increase in network speed, according to Quigg.
Fiber was originally extended from the Northwest Ohio Computer Association (NOCA), a division of the Northern Buckeye Educational Network (NBEN), to Clay in 2003. At that time, all other Oregon schools were left with T1 connections, which transfer data at a maximum speed of 1.544 Mbps. The new fiber network will allow data speeds of at least 155 Mbps, 100 times larger than a T1, according to Quigg.
The district expects to cut long-term costs through realized network efficiencies.
“The school district will cut long-term costs significantly by consolidating servers and having the ability to purchase district site licenses when making future software purchases,” said Quigg. “Additionally, the technology department will increase our service efficiency by troubleshooting and installing software remotely, without dispatching a technician to a building for each service request.”
The district has already experienced such savings at Coy Elementary, said Quigg. The new building was built directly in the path of the existing fiber that ran to Clay. It allowed the district to tap into that fiber and eliminate its T1 lease when it opened the building in August, 2007.
One of the reasons the district can cut costs while improving performance is because the school buildings currently lie in two separate phone service and cable areas, said Quigg. In order to get T1 lines to Jerusalem Elementary and Eisenhower Middle schools, the district must lease two T1 lines for each building - one from AT&T to get to the edge of its service area, and one from Verizon to extend to each building. Duplicate costs will be eliminated by running fiber lines directly from Clay to each school. The district will also be able to cut costs on phone service by contracting with one provider to provide dial tone to all buildings across the fiber network. The district has already requested new proposals from area phone providers.
The district is not the first to implement a fiber network. Several area schools already have similar fiber networks in place, such as Lake Local, Penta Career Center, Sylvania, Springfield, Washington Local, and Rossford, according to Quigg.
“As more and more applications are becoming web-based, it is essential to have the bandwidth required to allow several users to access these resources simultaneously without crashing or experiencing long wait times,” said Quigg.
The fiber will be built in three “legs,” he said.
The first leg will connect Clay to Coy Elementary, Starr Elementary, Fassett Middle School, and the Eagle Learning Center. The second leg will connect Clay to the district bus garage and Wynn Elementary. The third leg will connect Clay to Eisenhower Middle School and Jerusalem Elementary.
Construction of the fiber network should begin in June, said Quigg.
Students and teachers who use the computers will see a dramatic improvement, according to School Board President Jeff Ziviski.
“This is a project that the district and Nate have been working on for quite some time,” said Ziviski. “It will dramatically enhance the educational opportunities available to our students. As computers are being used more and more in the classrooms, this will make our capabilities better and allow for more users at little to no wait times. The district’s computer network will be able to handle more users and programs at the same time. With teachers using computer applications in the classroom more and more these days, it was important that we provide them with the proper tools.”
The district’s permanent improvement levy that voters passed last year “is what is making the project a reality,” said Ziviski.
“This was in the original plans to complete only if the levy passed,” said Ziviski. “It is one of those items that is needed for our district to keep up with surrounding districts. Nate investigated all possibilities to bringing fiber into the district and found that going through NOCA was the best financial option for the district.”
The fiber network could also be extended to the Oregon Police Department, said Ziviski. “Then they will have the capability to monitor all of the district’s cameras from their station. The extra distance is negligible when compared to the added safety benefits.”
The fiber network “should pay for itself” with the PI revenue in about five years, he said.
“The district is very aware of the economic environment, but in this case, benefits far exceed the cost. Add to this the cost savings through cost reductions and operating efficiencies, and this is really an economical project that will offer tremendous flexibility to the district, students and teachers moving forward,” said Ziviski.
A federal grant program, eRate, which reimburses districts for actual communications costs, was also received by the district, said Ziviski, to fund the program.