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School Committee Approves Use Of State Funds To Bring WiFi To District

The district will spend $688,000 to provide wireless internet to all schools; some teachers object, saying wifi negatively affects health and learning.

The School Committee approved a plan to bring wireless internet into all district schools at a cost of $688,000 – paid for by a grant from the state – by a 6-0 vote John Boscardin was absent.

At present, according to district technology head Rich Booth, only about 2 percent of the district is wireless. 

"I'm just excited to do this for the district. I think it's going to be a fantastic opportunity for the kids," said Booth. 

Part of the funds will be used to upgrade the fiber cable into the high school data center – allowing for much faster connections. 

"It's like a garden hose," Booth said. "If you have a garden hose this big," said Booth, holding his thumb and forefinger in an "O" shape, "you can only get five gallons an hour. If you have a garden hose this big" – holding his two hands out a few inches from each other – "you get 500 gallons an hour."

Not everyone is thrilled with the prospect of wifi in every classroom. 

Shelley McDonald, teacher at NKHS, told the School Committee for the second time (the first was at a meeting in December) that wireless technology poses threats to health and learning.

"I would like the School Committee to consider the expert testimony and numerous studies that have been conducted and maybe reverse that decision," she said, referring to the vote approving wifi implementation.

McDonald presented the committee with an anti-wifi petition signed by 25 teachers.

Supt. Phil Auger addressed the issue in an interview in December.

"My response is that of course I'm very concerned about the safety of the kids," he said. "I personally have seen no evidence that wifi is a danger. ... Until I hear from a proper authority on an issue, I'm not going to change." 

IT's Booth noted radiation is all around us, even without electronics. 

"The sun is probably the biggest contributor of radiation, whether it's day or night," he said. With regard to wifi in schools, he said, "We're talking milliwatts. It's infinitesimal."

The work could be completed by the end of the current school year, Booth said.

Mitchman January 15, 2014 at 07:37 AM
Luckily the School Committee approved this initiative - now I'd love to see who is designing & overseeing this wireless/fiber build out. It has to be done for next generation devices, and the wireless standard IEEE 802.11ac is a must. Do not install dated routers/switches/vlans.
Jeff Crawford January 15, 2014 at 10:48 AM
Great Idea! Now the high school and middle school students won't have to use their data allowance. They can simply shut off the cell tower access and go online via the wireless router while at school and stream unlimited movies and information.
Penelope Landis January 15, 2014 at 04:43 PM
Now Rhode island children can be part of an experiment on human health. Has anyone stopped to consider why France has pulled wifi out of schools and libraries and is now officially recommending wired (NOT wifi) in schools. Educate yourself on our governments lax "safety" standards on this radiation. Apparently it is not safe for bunnies. mice, rats and flies. http://ehtrust.org/erroneous-comments-submitted-to-the-fcc-on-proposed-cellphone-radiation-standards-and-testing/

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