Keith Middle/High School to get internet infrastructure upgrade

Published 9:50 am Thursday, March 28, 2024

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Dallas County School Superintendent Anthony Sampson might not have to answer questions about the quality of internet connectivity at Keith Middle/High School much longer.

The Dallas County School Board has approved a $29,885 contract with Information Transport Solutions (ITS) to redo the wiring of the internet infrastructure at the school. As soon as this summer, the firm will begin replacing all of the hard wiring within the school and connecting each building via fiber optic cables.

Sampson said KMHS likely has among the worst internet access of all of the county’s schools. He is hopeful this will improve the situation.

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“I guarantee you I’ve gotten 20 plus emails from kids asking about internet connectivity,” Sampson said during the special called meeting Tuesday. “So, this is a huge step in the right direction on the long-range infrastructure.”

Work being done through E-Rate program

The project is being funded through the E-Rate program, which is managed by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission. According to the FCC’s website, the program assists schools and libraries with obtaining discounts for installation of reliable broadband internet.

Rick Cortright, technology coordinator for the school system, said they received two additional bids, one of which came in an hour after the deadline due to the delivery courier arriving late in the day. However, ITS’s bid was the lowest bid and met the specifications of the project.

The other bid that was submitted on time was from CommSec, which came in at $67,185.24. Cortright attributed the significant difference to the labor costs.

“It’s likely they are hiring a subcontractor to do the work and marking up the cost from there,” Cortright said. “It looks like ITS is going to do the work themselves.”

The school board will have its regular board meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, but Cortright said they had to meet two days early to meet the project’s paperwork deadline Wednesday. Once USAC gives the green light on the project, the school system must have the 15% match for the project, which is roughly $5,000.

Fixing the wiring problems

Cortright said some of the problems with the school’s internet is due to the way the wiring was done back in the 1990s. That wiring will be brought up to current standards.

“A lot of it was done by volunteer groups that came into the district, and they did not wire according to best practices,” Cortright said. “A lot of times, they had a lot of wiring running across the roofs, and when they would get hit by lightning, it pops the equipment. The connectivity we will have will be inside our buildings. Then each building is connected by fiber, which is not affected by lightning.”

Sampson said they identified the wiring of KMHS as one of the areas the E-Rate money could be used.

“As we rewire that school, it’ll help with some of those challenges that plague us sometimes instructionally so that the kids can have free-flowing access to the internet and no interruptions with connectivity,” Sampson said.