Internet upgrade plan OK’d for East Williston school

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The East Williston schools will continue to focus on STEM and social and emotional learning in the upcoming year.

The East Williston school district on Monday night approved a plan to use state money to improve internet access at the Wheatley School.

The district plans to install high-speed broadband internet cables and 97 new wireless internet access points at the Old Westbury school with $304,393 it received through the SMART Schools Bond Act, a $2 billion initiative spearheaded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that was approved with a public vote in 2014.

The act provides funding for educational technology and internet infrastructure upgrades to improve school districts throughout the state. A state review board must approve districts’ spending plans before funds are made available.

“The board and district are certainly appreciative of this program that is the result of an education bond referendum from two years ago,” Mark Kamberg, the school board president, said at Monday’s school board meeting. “This is the funding finally coming through from the state … and I know a lot of work has gone into the planning.”

Kamberg went on to call East Williston’s project a “wonderful initiative,” saying, “We appreciate the support of the technology division that worked very hard on this.”

With the board’s final approval, the plan will now be submitted to the state Education Department’s Office of Facilities Planning for full approval.

It will then be posted on the school district’s website, after which implementation will begin.

Specific plans for the technology upgrades at Wheatley include installing 6A internet cables, allowing for 10 gigabits of data transfer per second versus the current speed of 1 gigabit, Jacqueline Pirro, the assistant superintendent for business, said.

The district will also install more wireless internet access points to better prepare for the district’s long-term wireless needs, Pirro said.

Additional wireless access points in Wheatley classrooms will create increased stability for wireless devices, she said.

“The technology vision of the East Williston school district is to provide a school climate that affords technology literacy opportunities for all members of the school community so they may acquire multidimensional skills and applications necessary for success within and beyond the classroom,” Pirro said.

The new cables and equipment for the two corridors and the district’s business office at Wheatley will cost $145,745; wireless access points will cost $9,159; and labor will cost $149,489, Pirro said.

The funds will be available as a reimbursement to the district after the work is completed.

The plan is similar to the EXCEL funds the district received a few years ago, Pirro said.

The SSBA implementation plan began in September 2016 with the submission of the district technology plan to the state.

With input from community stakeholders, the technology committee approved the SMART Schools expenditures the following month.

In December, the school board received and approved the proposed plan, which was then posted on the school district’s website for a 30-day comment period.

Despite the website postings and notices in the local press, Pirro said there were no public comments made between October and Monday night’s hearing, which Kamberg confirmed.

Also on Monday, the board adopted the 2017-18 school year calendar that will include three new holidays — the Chinese Lunar New Year, Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, and Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan — in recognition of demographic changes in the district.

The Herricks school board made a similar move last month.

The decision received positive feedback among several attendees, with one Muslim woman thanking the board and calling the move “momentous.”

“[A] night like this really shows that you value and support diversity … (and) that we as a neighborhood should get along and grow and understand each other,” she said.

Fourth-grader Rafi Saleem said he was glad he would no longer have to debate with his friends about missing school on these holidays, a sentiment echoed by his sister, Samar Saleem.

“We may all be different, but together we can do the impossible,” Rafi Saleem said.

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