“If students cannot come to the school for free Wi-Fi, then the school must send Wi-Fi to the students.”
From installing Wi-Fi access points on exterior walls, to parking Wi-Fi-enabled school buses in strategic locations, Chi Corporation is helping school districts find new ways to provide internet connectivity to their students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of the school districts Chi works with are considering installing outdoor wireless APs in their parking lots. However, there are several things you need to consider to ensure you are installing the best product for the best coverage.
Directional Antenna or Omni-Directional Antenna?
If you intend to mount the AP to an exterior wall, providing signal coverage in a specific range or direction, an AP with a directional antenna will probably be sufficient. This AP is secured to the outside of a building and the Wi-Fi signal is broadcast in one direction covering the specific area needed. Depending on how large your parking lot is, you may need more than one AP for optimum coverage.
If you intend to mount the AP to a pole in the parking lot, or on a central point, with the need to broadcast the signal all around it, you should purchase an AP with an omni-directional antenna. This can be mounted to a light pole and the Wi-Fi signal will broadcast all around the pole. As you see from the illustration below, using an omnidirectional AP on the exterior of a wall would not be as efficient as the directional AP shown above
Over 30 Ohio school districts have enlisted Chi Corporation to provide their K12 networking, security, storage and backup solutions and we can help you determine which network connectivity is best for your current and long-term needs.
Weather Resistant APs
Chi is an Extreme Networks Diamond Partner, the industry’s leading K12 network provider. Extreme has several rugged APs that are especially designed for outdoor high-bandwidth, wireless deployments in harsh environments, and perfect for providing your students and staff Wi-Fi during the COVID pandemic, no matter what the Ohio weather brings.
Thinking Inside and Outside of the Bus – Examples of Creative Wi-Fi for K12 Districts
Here are some examples of districts throughout the country that have used Extreme’s APs to creatively meet their Wi-Fi needs:
For Shady Point School District in Oklahoma, providing Wi-Fi to its 165 students was imperative. “Our area is very poor and rural,” says Superintendent Bruce Gillham. “We’re geographically dispersed over mountains and valleys with dead spots everywhere and sketchy cyber service.”
Gillham knew he’d need to work fast to enable instruction once his school was closed for the pandemic, so the former technology director thought outside the box (or, in this case, the building) and installed Extreme Networks access points on key locations.
“We put access points on the outside of our school building, on a digital sign on the highway, and on City Hall. All three provide internet connectivity to people within 1,000 feet,” says Gillham.
Shady Point School District has assembled portable access points to be used where needed.
Wi-Fi on Wheels
While strategically placed outdoor access points proved to be the right solution for a small district, the School District of Manatee County in Florida needed to provide coverage for 49,000 students.
Matt Bauer, senior engineer, network systems & security, described that first, the district handed out almost 10,000 Chromebook and Windows laptops; next, it was time to make sure all families had internet connectivity to access Schoology, the learning management system.
The technology department ordered 400 mobile hotspots to give to families with an additional 81 hotspots ordered to be used for summer school bringing the total number of hotspots ordered to 481. They installed Extreme Networks outdoor access points at 36 schools to provide Wi-Fi access daily between 8am and 7pm, and then purchased additional access points to install at another 19 sites. The indoor spaces of the district are well-blanketed with 4,000 Extreme Networks Wi-Fi access points.
But the district wanted to do more, so they installed Wi-Fi devices on 25 buses. They are currently parking the Wi-Fi buses at dozens of locations around town, including churches and other community centers. This way, students can get free internet access at various spots between 9 am and 4 pm every day.
According to an article in District Administration, around 45 to 60 students use the Wi-Fi daily and the district hopes to double its fleet of buses and continue to make them available long term.
When Pearl River County School District in Mississippi shut down schools in mid-March, the technology department had already begun discussing how to provide connectivity for its 3,500 students.
They handed out 3,500 Chromebooks over the course of four days via a drive-through distribution point, but needed to make sure everyone had access to Google Classroom, says Raymond Newton, chief technology officer and IT director.
“We have a Wi-Fi mesh to cover the parking lot and access points mounted on outside walls so that up to 40 students can work at picnic tables and other areas,” he says. “I’m happy to say that it’s been well-received.”
To help make sure everyone can access what they need, teachers post assignments on Mondays at 9 am and students have a week to complete them.
So far, the outside coverage has been sufficient. “Younger students tend to come to the buildings in the early hours, and the high school students drive up in the afternoon and stay for 30 to 60 minutes,” says Newton.
Chi Connect for Education
From consulting with districts to devise a creative solution to your Wi-Fi needs or deferring payment, Chi Corporation is always available to work with K-12 IT managers so that your educators, students, and communities can continue to learn and to thrive. Contact your Chi rep or call 440-498-2300.