San Luis Coastal district may spend $1.1M for Wi-Fi at elementary campuses

Elementary schools in San Luis Coastal Unified School District will be outfitted with the infrastructure needed to support Wi-Fi in classrooms—at a significant cost.

The price tag of equipping the district’s 10 elementary schools with what is needed for students to have wireless access to the internet on laptop computers and other devices in classrooms will likely cost more than $1.1 million. The school board voted unanimously Tuesday for the district to pursue the project.

The decision aligns with the district’s goal of adding more technology to classrooms. The board recently voted in favor of looking for a way to provide one-on-one technology devices, such as netbooks or tablets, to students in third through sixth grades at all schools. However, that can’t be done until equipment is installed to allow wireless internet access, or Wi-Fi.

“Overall, what people need to understand is this allows for wiring to take place in each classroom so that we are prepared for the future,” said Kim McGrath, director of learning achievement and innovation and technology. “Right now teachers, administrators, parents and students are hungering for progress when it comes to technology.”

Elementary schools are now at the limit of what the existing infrastructure can handle, McGrath said. The cost for each elementary school is estimated to be $75,000 for infrastructure, $50,000 for hardware such as fiber, switches and other controllers and $45,000 for construction costs, said McGrath.

San Luis Coastal installed Wi-Fi at Laguna Middle School and Los Osos Middle School last year. In Los Osos, all sixth-grade students are using one-on-one devices and money has been budgeted to provide tablets or netbooks for all students at the middle school within the next two years. The district’s two high schools, San Luis High and Morro Bay High, have Wi-Fi hot spots on campus.

“In this current situation, the lack of Wi-Fi is holding back elementary sites from making the progress toward 21st century skills they desire,” according to a staff report presented to the school board.

In Lucia Mar Unified School District, the county’s largest school district, many of the elementary schools have Wi-Fi. The school board there approved $751,000 in technology improvements with one-time funding provided by Common Core State Standards funding, said Amy Jacobs, district spokeswoman.

“We anticipate all schools having some amount of Wi-Fi by the start of next school year,” Jacobs said.

The San Luis Coastal school board will be asked to approve bids to move forward with construction at a future meeting. The goal, said McGrath, is to have Wi-Fi installed by the start of next school year.