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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.
Apr 6, 2020

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.

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.

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