Alden school officials consider adding guest Wi-Fi network - The Buffalo News

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Alden school officials consider adding guest Wi-Fi network

With more young people using personal smartphones and tablets, officials at Alden schools are looking into providing students with a Wi-Fi network to use them.

The school district currently uses a wireless network that is inaccessible to students on their personal devices, said Frank Rizzo, director of instructional and information technology and chief information officer. Students have access, however, to iPads that the school provides.

“We run about 700 devices a day on our network, and we’re doing OK with it,” he said at Thursday night’s meeting of the Alden Central School Board. “If I added [personal] devices from the middle school and high school right now, we would slow down to a crawl.”

The district is looking into creating a “guest” network, Rizzo said, that is separate from the current network. Aside from the slow speed that would result from added devices, there are security concerns, as well.

“We don’t want to have people have access to that same network,” he said. “If the kids are on their own network, they’re not affected by what we’re doing and if you had teachers with things like grades traveling the network, the kids wouldn’t be able to get to that.”

Board member Michael Bennett raised concerns that without the Wi-Fi network, students who don’t have a device with a data plan are missing out when teachers allow students to look up information.

“How fair is that, if one kid can get on the Internet researching stuff and the other kid is sitting there twiddling his thumbs, unable to look it up?,” he asked.

“They do have access to iPads,” said board member Jill Hopcia, referring to the devices the school provides in the classroom.

The district also is looking into providing students with email accounts.

It’s all about providing students with a technical edge, Rizzo said.

“It’s trying to give them enough tools where it becomes the norm,” he said. “My thing would be, if the kid is going to go to college in New York State, they would have the same tools that they had in high school, so I think that makes sense.”

In other board news, Director of Student and Staff Learning Scott Payne gave a report on the shift to the Common Core standards and how the district is supporting teachers. Alden received the Strengthening Teacher and Leader Effectiveness grant, which gave the district $224,000 to work on the reform. The grant provides a “tremendous” amount of support to the district, Payne said.

A team of instructional coaches is working with teachers in the district on dealing with the Common Core standards, he said. This provides the teachers with “real, in-depth conversations on how to move forward,” Payne said.

“They’re providing a huge amount of leadership to our teachers,” he said.

Board President Paul Hutschenreuter said the board would have a lot more information on the current search for a new superintendent at a meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 7 in the Primary School Library.

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