Demographics:

Nazareth Area School District is an eastern Pennsylvania school district with more than 4,800 students across six schools.

Biggest challenge:

Facing increasing demands to provide exceptional experiences for both students and teachers, our legacy network was simply not able to keep pace. We needed new network technology capable of supporting the digital curriculum within the classroom while also providing reliable wireless coverage outdoors to support the district’s new security strategy and emergency preparedness app. We realized that meeting these needs would require us to modernize the network from the edge to the core and that the solution would have to be both utility grade and simple to deploy.

Solution:

We chose to deploy new wired and wireless solutions to ensure high performance. After a thorough evaluation of our options, we decided to go with Aruba and are now running two 8320 switches as the foundation of our network. With the ArubaOS-CX operating system, these switches give us a fully redundant network that makes failovers, whether planned or unplanned, completely undetectable by our users.

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Additionally, with Aruba we were able to deploy outdoor wi-fi for the first time. As a critical component of our new security initiative, we cover the entire perimeter of each school with wi-fi to ensure that faculty and staff are able to use our response tool, NaviGate Prepared, anywhere on campus in order to quickly determine who is accounted for and who isn’t during an emergency.

Reliable wi-fi has also improved the use of innovation within our classrooms. Now that teachers are confident in the wireless network, they are evolving their curricula to include technology such as coding, robotics, Google Expeditions VR Classroom kits and a wide range of other digital learning tools.

Lessons learned:

  • When you implement the right network, you’ll know it – when we first deployed Aruba wi-fi, all the connectivity problems we’d experienced in classrooms vanished.
  • Everything ultimately connects back to the core of the network, so choosing a redundant and reliable core switch is key to implementing other technologies.
  • When choosing a wireless provider, it’s important to consider how they will support applications for the classroom, especially in a 1:1 initiative.
  • If you’re considering ways to enhance student security, consider your connectivity outside as well as inside in order to have reliable communication during an emergency.

Next steps:

  • Our facilities management staff is looking at new ways to add building automation and access systems to our network.
  • In order to ensure the advanced data security required for IoT devices, we are adopting ClearPass Policy Manager.
  • We are planning to enhance our student success with more cloud-based solutions for teaching, learning and administration.

About the Author:

Michael Uelses is the director of information technology in Pennsylvania’s Nazareth Area School District


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