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TUSD moves forward with network infrastructure upgrade

Although Turlock Unified School District students could soon be enjoying higher connection speeds, the achievement of such a technological upgrade is understandably not as speedy.

In the fall, the district approved a project aiming to upgrade the district’s network infrastructure and network foundation into one capable of supporting wireless connectivity. Upon completion, this project is expected to generate rapid, secure data connectivity in order to further support the academic success of students.

“I want to thank Dr. Da Marto and the district,” said TUSD Board president Frank Lima. “As difficult as it was to set money aside, I appreciate the Board agreeing to put the money aside for technology because it allows us to do these things and not have to wait two or three years.”

In the midst of the project is Technology and Data systems director Jason Brem, who recently went before the TUSD Board of Trustees with a request to solicit E-rate bids for a network infrastructure upgrade.

“Think of it as two layers. Our project is one layer that you, the Board, have already approved. It is something we are going forward with. We have the funds for it,” Brem told Board members. “E-rate is the second layer. We would like to see if ultimately we can get some money for the project.”

As the federal government’s largest education technology program, the E-rate program provides funding and support for on-campus wireless networks. A new sub-fund within the E-rate program will specifically benefit schools looking to take the next step with projects such as upgrading internal networks and on-campus Wi-Fi connections.

“The program has set aside money for upgrades of the sort we are looking to do and there is a lot more money in this category than there used to be,” said Brem. “This program is making changes for the better, including changes that focus on broadband and wireless connections that will allow more devices and student connectivity.”

According to Brem, if TUSD is chosen to receive funding, this funding will be available for the next five years. However, the district must apply within the next two years to be eligible.

“We feel that at this time it is in the district’s best interest to try to begin the process to apply and see if we can get some money for this project,” continued Brem.

With an initial price tag estimated between $1.4 and $1.5 million for equipment alone, the district is still waiting to see what the total cost will add up to once it receives its proposals.

 “Because of the age of some of our buildings and infrastructure, we may need specialized equipment or support to get all sites up to the standard we want,” wrote Brem. “We can’t move forward with district wide wireless and possible mobile initiatives until we have a stronger infrastructure.”

For now, work has already begun over winter break at Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy, and Turlock Junior High School is currently undergoing work of its own. Projects thus far have included upgrading networking cabinets in order to support additional equipment, terminating additional cable runs between the main distribution frame (MDF) and intermediate distribution frame (IDF), and preparing equipment for a new network installation.

 “Part of TUSD’s mission is to ensure all students graduate as self-motivated, responsible citizens equipped to compete successfully in an ever-charging global society,” wrote Brem. “In order to fulfill that mission and provide the best learning experience for our students, we must have fast, reliable and secure data connectivity that allows a variety of technologies to support a range of learning and student needs.”