As 21st-century technology and state standardized testing procedures continue to evolve, Brookfield-La Grange Park School District 95 is taking steps this spring to prepare for updated wireless access to strengthen Internet connectivity and equipment usage for faculty and students at both Brook Park Elementary School and S.E. Gross Middle School. 

At the district’s committee of the whole meeting on Thursday, Feb. 26, Technology Manager Robert Bowe presented the district’s current technology project to expand total school Wi-Fi compatibility. 

Bowe believes the project is necessary if the district wants to have updated and smooth computer and Internet access for both regular instructional use and for state standardized testing such as the PARCC exam, which is entirely online-based. 

Bowe says the district’s current wireless connections and equipment are just not going to cut it for much longer.

“[Our goal] with this wireless access is to increase it, make it so that wherever we bring a cart of 30 computers into a classroom, whether for testing or instruction, we have the capability for all students to get onto the Internet and not be delayed by some sort of bandwidth problem,” he said.

Bowe said the PARCC exam has very stringent guidelines regarding testing connectivity and Internet access, and the district must react and set up a very fast but strict online environment.

“One of the things [computer testing] does is put a lot of strain on our existing wireless connectivity,” Bowe said. “It cannot handle an entire group of students getting on the wireless access points and getting to a reliable and consistent connection.”

Bowe said that from nine potential project vendors, he had received six project proposals from companies including Apple, Ruckus Wireless, Cisco Meraki and Aerohive Networks. 

“We’re currently in the process of reviewing those,” Bowe said. “What we’re trying to do is get a little bit more of an informed point of view about how this equipment is going to work and whether or not it works with what we are doing here at the district.”

Proposals under review include the rough layout of configuration of Internet access points and include bids for both the actual equipment and network cabling. Bowe estimates the approximate cost for equipment could be anywhere between $44,000 and $88,000 and costs for cabling between $30,000 and $35,000. 

District 95 is eligible to receive roughly $100,000 in federal government funds to help with up to 50 percent of the cost for whichever plan the district chooses. Bowe said the district would like to choose a vendor by March 26 and then review costs and finalize a contract with the company over the summer. 

Further updates on the district’s technology project will be available at the next regular school board meeting on Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m. at S.E. Gross School, 3524 Maple Ave. in Brookfield.