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Norwalk-La Mirada Unified will invest more than $2.5 million in Measure G bond funds to finish wiring all schools for Internet access, add hundreds of Wi-Fi access points and install a modern, digital phone system. Work has already started and will continue as the District adds the necessary wireless capabilities and upgrades to equip all classrooms with 21st century technology.
Measure G is a $375 million school facilities construction and improvement bond approved by local voters in 2014.
The Board of Education set Phase I spending priorities for Measure G in the spring with technology upgrades high on the list, then approved the first wave of infrastructure projects this summer, based on a thorough evaluation process of different vendors and technologies required to address the District’s needs over the next five to eight years.
A special Board study session on potential additions to the Phase I project list will also be held at at the District offices, 12820 Pioneer Blvd., Norwalk.
Limited federal E-Rate funds and District general fund dollars allowed completion of some technology upgrades in summer 2014, providing some improvements to the District office and completing work at 17 schools.
Here’s how the $2.5 million breaks down:
-$1.2 million to complete the installation of wiring for internet access in the District office and the remaining 14 schools: Norwalk, La Mirada and El Camino high schools; Benton, Hutchinson and Los Coyotes middle schools; Dulles, Eastwood, Escalona, Gardenhill, and La Pluma elementary schools; Norwalk and La Mirada Adult schools; and Southeast Academy, bringing all sites up to latest networking standards.
-$750,000 to provide 559 high-speed wireless access points (to supplement 739 existing access points), ensuring all classrooms support digital instructional technologies and building capacity for the roll-out of devices for teacher and student use beginning next year.
-$350,000 to bolster storage and server capacity at the District’s network data center.
-$220,000 to convert NLMUSD’s antiquated and unreliable cable phone system to a less costly, more flexible digital system (VOIP). Every classroom will have a phone, overhead paging system and voicemail. Parents will be able to directly dial individual schools.
NLMUSD Chief Technology Officer Tim Scholefield anticipates the work will start as early as November and will take advantage of winter break to tear open walls so the network remains active during instructional time.
“Our goal is to have the major upgrades – data center, network and wireless capabilities – all in place by February or March,” Scholefield said. “We’re timing it to work out any kinks and have a really robust infrastructure right before the Smarter Balanced online testing time begins in the spring.”
All of this lays the groundwork for the District to spend $3 million in Measure G funds on student and teacher devices beginning in the 2016-17 school year. The District’s 2020 Learning Initiative calls for a five-year phase-in of 1:1 device technology for grades four through 12 and classroom sets of technology for grades TK through three that will allow flexibility around how students can access the devices.
The District has been piloting different technologies, including iPads and Chromebooks, in different grade levels across all schools for the past three years to integrate technology into instruction. This summer, it held two “Blended Learning Summits” to give teachers from pilot classrooms a platform to share best practices and lesson designs to engage all students. Professional development for teachers around these concepts is ongoing.
NLMUSD School Board President Jesse Urquidi appreciates the staff’s thoughtful approach to the professional development and the rolling out of new classroom technology.
“The comprehensive approach District staff is demonstrating, including allowing teachers and students to try on several different types of technology in the classroom setting, is really commendable,” Urquidi said. “We can be proud of how we are investing taxpayer funds to really make a positive impact on the education of our students.”
Superintendent Dr. Hasmik Danielian said she is pleased with the staff-driven nature of the 2020 Learning Initiative.
“If we want to make the best use of technology in the classroom, having the enthusiasm and confidence of our teachers and students behind it is the key,” Danelian said.
In addition to major technology upgrades, the first round of Measure G projects includes nearly $50 million in facility improvements — from beginning the process for new and improved athletic facilities at the District’s three comprehensive high schools, to hardscape improvements and installation of air conditioning in school buildings. The District plans to issue approximately $52 million in Measure G bonds every three years over approximately 20 years.
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