High school goes high tech

Director of Information Services Bruce Roberts and network specialist Al Swapp examine the new technology upgrades in the Career and Technical Education building.  - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
Director of Information Services Bruce Roberts and network specialist Al Swapp examine the new technology upgrades in the Career and Technical Education building.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor High school is set to become the most technologically advanced school in Island County, with the approval of $712,000 in new equipment.

The money was removed from a $4 million surplus in bond funding for the high school’s two-year modernization project.

Superintendent Rick Schulte said that contractor bids came in so low, that officials were able to restore alternative projects from the original plan. These include expanding tennis courts and resurfacing parking lots. Contingency funding also covers unexpected problems during construction.

Technology upgrades were not part of this draft, but Schulte said, “even with the money we used to bring everything back, there was extra.”

The school board approved funds for the upgrade Monday night.

Typically, electronics gear is bought late in the construction process, project manager Mitch Romero said, because it could be obsolete by the end of the project. However, the new system will be five times more advanced than the current technology.

Today, teachers have about two ports per classroom, one for the Internet and one for the phone systems, but they will soon have eight.

Wireless Internet will be available throughout the campus.

“Instead of having a separate system, the phones will run over a data network. The phone will actually be a computer,” Bruce Roberts, director of Information Services, said.

The department will also invest in new switching equipment, which is used to network multiple computers together. They will increase computer speed and can run voice and video over the network.

There will be about 50 switches, with a cost of about $5,000 to $8,000 each.

“When you have 800 computers getting onto the Internet at the same time, you need good quality,” Roberts said.

The telephone equipment will cost about $40,000.

The new devices will power the entire campus and will have about a 10-year lifespan. Technology will be retrofitted into the buildings as they are constructed.

“Before, we were putting ports into walls that didn’t have ports already. And classrooms didn’t have phones when the building was originally built,” Roberts said.

Many of the current devices, such as the 8-year-old switches, are out of date but still usable. They will be refurbished to backfill other school buildings or they’ll be saved as spare parts.

Technicians have already begun installing ports in the new Career and Technical building and additional equipment was ordered.

“We want to make this as technologically agile as possible,” Roberts said, referring to the speed of new technologies. “It’s a quantum leap over what we had before.”

Schulte commented at the school board meeting that he saw the technology as a “smart expenditure and cost-saving.”

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