Every day, over 400 teachers, instructional support staff, and administrators employed by the Person County Schools prepare over 4,600 students with critical thinking, communicative, collaborative and creative skills. New programs implemented by the school board such as the 1:1 Laptop Initiative give students an advantage for learning and living in the modern tech age. Due to the ever evolving requirements of devices, curriculum and growing demand for a more suitable wireless network that would meet the needs of its users, the Person County School System was in need of a new solution.
Issues that Person County School users were facing included a mixed environment of devices on 2.4 GHz and 5GHz radio bands, heightened congestion during quarterly online testing, and erratic Wi-Fi connections. Complications with the wireless network interrupted instructional time, pulling teachers away from daily lessons in order to troubleshoot faulty connections. Ashley Cooper, Director of Accountability, Technology, Media and HomeBase for the Person County Schools, and his team quickly recognized the problem and carefully evaluated several options that would improve the current infrastructure.
One option the team considered was replacing legacy laptops with new, sleeker versions. However, replacing laptops was ruled out when analysis of trending data revealed the brevity of reprieve from the wireless woes would be in less than 18 months. By planning for the next five years versus patching with a quick fix, Cooper and his team decided the best plan of action would be an overhaul of the entire six-year-old county-wide wireless network. Outfitting 13 schools from pre-K to 12th grade and three administration and operations facilities in a matter of weeks was not an easy task, but proved to be a success once the best solution was discovered.
At the North Carolina Educational Technicians (NCET) Conference this past spring, Jason Clayton, Coordinator of Technology Services for the Person County Schools met with Carolina Advanced Digital, Inc. After evaluating their issues and environment, Kory Thornburg, Network Engineer and Technical Team Lead at Carolina Advanced Digital recommended to demo Meru Networks’ newest 802.11ac access points against their current wireless network. Cooper and team chose Helena Elementary for the demo site and were pleased with the results. “Teachers and staff members saw a difference immediately,” notes Jason Clayton.
By implementing Meru’s MobileFLEX architecture, Person County Schools is given the ability to control how and where students connect, which enables teachers and students to log onto the network quickly and efficiently. This also increased instructional time and the overall student experience, ultimately giving students more time in the classroom and more preparation for local assessments, End-of-Grade, End-of-Course, and North Carolina Final Exams. Resources such as online instructional exercises and e-learning tools are more accessible. Meru’s APs have shown that they can support classrooms with about 30 students, most with multiple devices, all accessing the wireless in order to conduct educational activities. Management and control is centralized and allows the IT department to effectively monitor the system without additional resources and money.
Choosing to upgrade the networks infrastructure has proven to be the best decision. After the first few weeks of schools, teachers and staff members were satisfied with the final product. “Meru has been a great fit for us. For the first time in years, our devices connect and stay connected. Staff and students alike can now depend on consistent connectivity. This has greatly reduced our helpdesk issues and gives our technicians more time to work on other issues. We are pleased with the product.” Jason Clayton Coordinator of Technology Services.
In the end, Cooper’s team found a solution that exceeded their expectations and provides flexibility for future needs. With the evolving world of technology and education, the Person County Schools has a plan for the modern age and welcomes future networking challenges.