Lee schools to add wireless Internet

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – School campuses in Lee County will soon have wireless Internet, thanks to federal funding.
The school district will use the roughly $135,000 it will get this year under the federal Title 6 program to expand its technology. Title 6 money is for rural school districts in low-income areas.
Lee County will use the funds to provide wireless Internet access throughout the district and to purchase sets of laptops and computer carts for its schools. The proposal was approved last week by both the district’s school board and then by the Mississippi Department of Education. The MDE must OK district plans for using the federal funds.
“We are trying to broaden access so we can start running more devices, like laptops and tablets,” said Lee County Federal Programs Director Casey Dye.
The district will buy 119 laptops and distribute them to schools based on student enrollment and the number of students at the school who take state tests. Teachers will then be able to check out the laptops to use in their classrooms.
They’ll also help as the district uses the Common Core, new curriculum guidelines that will change the nature of state tests beginning in the 2014-15 school year. The plan is that those tests eventually will be taken online.
“We know that with Common Core coming, there is talk the assessments will go online, and we know we need to start building the infrastructure,” Dye said. “We wanted to start now. We wanted to be a step ahead of the game.”
The wireless Internet access also will make it easier for teachers to use other technology, like tablet devices or interactive projectors. Many teachers have recently added the projectors, which allow them to display information from the Internet to their students.
The hope, Dye said, is the wireless access will allow teachers to use these devices more smoothly and easily.
Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said he also believes it is a cheaper way for the district to add technology.
“Now, with iPads and other tablets that are a lot more affordable to purchase than laptops, adding wireless makes it easier to have technology for every student in the classroom at a cheaper cost,” he said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com