Wheaton schools expanding outside WiFi access points

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

$22,000 in equipment donated by HPE

Due to COVID-19, and the possibility of virtual learning becoming more common, the Wheaton school district has the opportunity to extend the exterior WiFi access points.

Kevin Butler, Wheaton IT director, said the district heard about the opportunity through a vendor that previously worked for the school district.

“It is a K-12 education bundle,” he said. “I sent an email on June 25 to look into the program that is being offered by [Hewlett Packard Enterprise] (HPE).”

He then filled out the application and the district received one of the two options available based on the school’s size.

“I contacted HPE after the application was completed to help try to get things moving,” he said. “Then, one day we received two big boxes that contained all the equipment to set up the access points.”

The school received the top option, which was worth $11,000, but got two instead of one for a total of $22,000 worth of HPE equipment.

“We will be able to just connect it to our existing infrastructure,” Butler said. “They also sent us more switches to extend that access further.”

The new access points are not up and running just yet.

“Barry Electric set one up for us for free in June,” he said. “That one covers the front parking lot, and we are thinking of putting one of the new ones in the back parking lot.”

Butler said the significance of the additional access points is simply that more people can tap into the wireless internet.

“Before with just one, they had to crowd the school pretty close to the building,” he said. “Now, they will be able to social distance better throughout the parking lots. Also, it really helps for those in our area who don’t have internet access.”

Butler said he is proud that Wheaton is able to keep up with larger schools when it comes to their technology.

“Wheaton has always been great about bringing in newer and better technology as it comes out,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the administration working and applying to these opportunities and getting the most bang for their buck.”

The boxes came in the end of August, and Butler said they will be running this school year.

“If we do have to go back to virtual learning, we need to be ready,” he said. “We need to be able to flip a switch and transition seamlessly. The process of getting the access points set up can be long, because we want to make sure everything is stable and working properly.

“It is always good to have something as backup when it is needed. This will ensure that our access points will keep flowing at a good rate.”

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