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Rocklin Unified considering $1.5M Wi-Fi network

New tech would be implemented in phases over five years
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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In other business:

· Senior Director of Operations Sue Wesselius proposed making Rocklin Elementary School a feeder school for Rocklin High School again, as it was before 1993, when the district started sending its students to Whitney High School with the understanding that it would switch back when enrollment balance demanded it. Now that new home construction and transfers from other districts are causing Whitney High to continually grow faster than Rocklin High, she said, the time has come to reconsider the district’s feeder school strategies, including other schools. The board made no decision but will review the information at a later date.

· Wesselius proposed a summer energy-reduction plan that would require anyone renting the school’s facilities to pay $106 an hour from noon to 6 p.m. and $24 an hour before and after that. If power use incurred peak demand charges from Pacific Gas & Electric, the bill for that time would increase by $300 an hour, though she said this would only happen occasionally in high school summer sites. The board asked for other alternatives before it would approves the plan.

· The board approved the purchase of a new textbook for the expansion of Bret Hunter’s Energy, Power and Business course into solar and alternative energy studies.

 

In the interest of keeping up with the need for technology in classrooms, the Rocklin Unified School District may spend $1.5 million over the next five years to implement wireless Internet across its campuses.

After hearing a tentative installment plan for the new technology during March’s regular board meeting, the district’s board of trustees gave Deputy Superintendent Todd Cutler and Chief Technology Officer Steve Mate the go-ahead to continue preparing as if the board had committed to the project. However, the board has months to decide if it will officially approve the plan before passing the 2013-2014 budget.

If the project moves forward as expected, the district will spend about $300,000 a year over the next five years, including a new staff member plus upgraded equipment and bandwidth, to phase in 723 strategically placed access points.

Cutler said the district cannot yet facilitate the kind of online testing that will be required by 2016, and the need for wireless Internet capacity will only get more urgent year by year.

Superintendent Kevin Brown said the board would need to weigh its many priorities before making a final decision.

“One of the challenges that we haven’t really been able to overcome yet is, what is the state funding model for next year?” he said. “Obviously, Wi-Fi is a top priority for the board, but keep in mind also that over the last three or four years we’ve cut $4 million out of our budget. There were a lot of priorities there, too, whether it was counseling, music and so forth. We need to come back here and take some action on what you want in the budget next year. We’ll build the budget according to what your direction is at that time.”

Responding to whether the board was comfortable with the direction of the plan so far, board members expressed varying degrees of approval. Vice President Steve Paul supported the idea, but qualified his response with concerns about state funding.

“That’s a lot of money, and who knows what’s going to happen down the road?” he said.

Board Clerk Greg Daley assured Paul that because the plan involved different phases each year, it could be only partially completed and not require the full $1.5 million investment if the district could not afford it.

President Todd Lowell said the district expects about $400 million in general fund expenditures over the next five years and should be able to find $1.5 million if need be. Board Member Camille Maben agreed.

“It is a lot of money,” she said. “But again, in the scheme of things, with what it can afford our students and our staff to do, I think we have to look at and figure out how it’s going to happen.”