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Grant gives schools, library better access to Internet
[February 18, 2013]

Grant gives schools, library better access to Internet

SALEM, Feb 18, 2013 (The Daily Republic - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Two area schools and one public library received grants to improve technology.

McCook Central School in Salem, Hanson School District in Alexandria and Gregory Public Library each received South Dakota Broadband Initiative grants last month. Each of them is a community anchor institution, which is a place that serves the community like a library or school.

The South Dakota Broadband Initiative is part of a national effort to determine availability and capacity of broadband services, according to its website. Broadband is described as high-speed, continuously available internet access. The program is funded through a grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, through the State Broadband and Development Program.

McCook Central School's library serves as a public hub on Saturdays and will now provide a more secure Internet connection.

"Right now, to use the computers and get Internet, the public has to go on our network," said Brad Wilkins, McCook Central network administrator. "It makes me nervous that they're on our network. I don't want to contaminate it." The school district received a $9,877.33 grant, which Wilkins will use to install new switches to provide public and school wireless access points. The switches will also increase bandwidth for the school and public, he said.

Also through the grant, the district was able to purchase a few new desktop computers to wire into the new switches. The computers will be available for public access.

The grant is an 80/20 split, with the district paying about $2,000 of the grant.

The grant will enhance the student experience as well, Wilkins said.

High school students all have tablet PCs through Hewlett-Packard, which they have with them 24/7, Wilkins said. The increased bandwidth for Internet and the school's network will help keep technology as a vital role in education.

McCook Central School became a part of the Classroom Connections program through the state in 2007, during the program's second year.

"We have been wireless since then," Wilkins said.

Next year, the district hopes to expand its use of tablets to the middle school students. Wilkins said the district will likely eliminate its second-level computer lab. On top of that, elementary students are already using iPads, he added.

"It's a great educational tool," Wilkins said of using tablet computers. "It's just kids are constantly searching for games and stuff, so we lock down the network as much as we can." Hanson School District in Alexandria also received a grant, which will allow them to upgrade wireless Internet.

"We have a five- to six-year-old wireless system," said Doni Bridge, technology coordinator. "We'll update the controller and the grant was for 25 access points." He said the Internet access will be about 100 times faster and provide added security.

The wireless will also be available for the public and those who use the recently completed community library, which is attached to the school.

"We will be able to segment off a guest wireless connection," Bridge said.

The district also recently added a new computer lab, which will be connected into a new switch by fiber optics.

Hanson School District will pay approximately $2,000 of the $12,175.06 grant, as it is an 80/20 split.

Both school districts have already started ordering equipment needed to upgrade their systems. Wilkins and Bridge both said they will do the majority of installation themselves. However, if they need help, the state will provide helpers.

Bridge said once he has all the equipment, he will likely have the installation done in one day.

He said the upgraded Internet connection will help the eighth- through tenth-graders, who have laptops, and teachers who have Promethean Boards in their classrooms.

The Gregory Public Library also received a grant to purchase new laptops, desktop computers, a new switch, an updated firewall and storage equipment. Their 20 percent in-kind work will consist of a volunteer installing the new equipment, said Diane Althoff, library director.

The library received a $6,088.51 grant.

"We're going to get three laptops so we're able to do one-on-one computer training," Althoff said. "There's a small teen group that meets here every month, like volunteers ... so we'll be able to do training on electronic resources." She said the switch will provide a speedier Internet connection and upgrade the wireless connection as well.

The grant also provides for two more desktop computers -- one will be used as a walk-up station to use the Internet and the other for an online card catalog.

"But we're still looking for more funds to automate our collection," she said.

So, in the meantime, Althoff said both computers will be used for Internet access.

Althoff said as a community anchor institution, Gregory Public Library has become more valuable to the community. Offering wireless Internet and more computer classes have helped make it more relevant.

___ (c)2013 The Daily Republic (Mitchell, S.D.) Visit The Daily Republic (Mitchell, S.D.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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