Wireless access expansion sought

By the spring, all Lafayette Parish School System high schools and middle schools could have more wireless access points to make it easier for teachers to incorporate more e-learning into the classroom, said LaShona Dickerson, the district’s instructional technology director.

Dickerson has asked the School Board to let her department move about $210,000 earmarked in her budget for the purchase of electronic reading devices for students into improving wireless access at middle and high schools. The board will vote on the funds transfer at its Nov. 28 meeting.

The total cost of the project is about $350,000 with most of that amount covered by what had been budgeted for e-readers and other new equipment, Dickerson said.

A task force that analyzed technology needs for the school system earlier this year had recommended providing funding to acquire electronic readers.

Dickerson, who was hired after the task force’s analysis, said that the district’s schools are equipped with wireless technology but lack enough access points to support an electronic reader initiative.

More access is needed to realize the district’s goal of deploying e-readers and also launching a “bring your own mobile device” initiative in schools, Dickerson said.

Current technology and infrastructure needs have been reviewed by a volunteer task force of Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce members. An update on their work will be presented to the board at its Dec. 12 meeting, Dickerson said.

The district is already working to prepare for new state-mandated online assessments called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, that will be fully implemented in the 2014-15 school year.

It will cost about $1.5 million for the district to become PARCC-ready, Lafayette Parish Schools Superintendent Pat Cooper said during a public event held last week.

About 1,600 Windows 7 computers will be purchased within the next year to allow time for students to practice, Dickerson said.

“We can’t just have to expect them to take the PARCC without having experience on the computer. We want teachers to practice with students taking assessments online, so they’ll be comfortable when it’s time to test,” she said.

The additional computers will place the district in the required minimum ratio set by the state of seven students per computer to administer the test to all students within 10 days, she said.

Dickerson said the district is considering other equipment options, such as leasing rather than purchasing computers.

“We buy all this equipment and in four years, it’s outdated,” she said. “We can’t afford to buy and discard. If we lease … they’ll always have up-to-date computers in their schools.”