Covid-19: Providing Digital Accessibility to a Shuttered School

Covid-19: Providing Digital Accessibility to a Shuttered School

With a shuttered school and some students having no internet access to the school server, Central Valley extended its network outwards.

Central Valley High School

The shutdown of all schools in the Commonwealth for the foreseeable future – likely until the end of this school year – has prompted school administrators to assess their communication channels and build new ways to deliver instruction to their students. As schools develop online instruction, one serious hurdle is internet accessibility. A home technology survey, administered by Pittsburgh Public Schools, revealed that 5% of households do not have internet access. With libraries and coffee shops also shuttered, these students simply won’t have a way of continuing their education.

This Alcatel Lucent WiFi Access Point was connected to the exterior of the building, providing secure access to the school’s network.
Central Valley School District came up with an innovative solution to provide access to their networks. They mounted a WiFi access points at strategic locations on the exterior of each of their buildings. Now, any student or faculty member can sit in their car in the parking lot, and securely connect their laptop or device to the school’s network. Students can access lessons, school resources and keep up with their schoolwork. While it’s obviously not as convenient as a home network, it is a workable option in these limited times.

Once schools have re-opened, having connectivity in outdoor spaces will enhance the learning experience. Students can research online and do schoolwork in the comfort of outdoor spaces, while faculty can check their daily emails in the privacy of their parked cars.

“It was a relatively simple and cost-effective solution,” explained Greg DiFiore, DES systems engineer. “Central Valley already had exterior network cable that connected to their security cameras. We used that existing cable and attached it to the new WiFi access points.”

The exterior WiFi access points connect to the existing Alcatel-Lucent controller and share the same cybersecurity features and user experience the staff and students regularly use.

Time Sensitive Grant!
In response to Covid-19, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is offering a grant for schools to purchase computer equipment, such as laptops, tablets, and internet hot spots, or to use towards providing instructional materials, such as paper lessons and coursework. The application window is only open from April 6 – April 10. We can assist with the technology equipment purchase as well as other workarounds to help students without internet at home to gain connectivity. As part of the PDE grant, we can secure a combination of routers and sim cards that can enable connectivity to a home computer through a cellphone connection. Please reach out to the DES sales team at 412-531-4240 or for information.

DES is categorized as an essential business and is active during the Covid-19 crisis. Please give us a call to discuss how to best configure your networks for your remote operations.