The Public School System wants a faster and reliable internet service for its students.
The amount needed to upgrade the system’s internet connection is $500,000, according to Tim Thornburgh, federal programs officer of PSS.
“We have a consolidated grant carryover of $600,000 from the previous year and $500,000 of that will be used for this needed upgrade,” he said in his report to the PSS board last Wednesday.
Thornburgh said that PSS currently has 17,700 devices being used in the school system. “With the upgrade we can easily accommodate 25,000 devices” he added.
According to Thornburgh, the current infrastructure does not allow efficient access to the internet.
“If you are at the end of the line, say, you’re at Tinian Elementary School, and the line goes first to the high school, you’re not going to have a lot of bandwidth,” he said.
“A system upgrade is definitely needed if we want uninterrupted online education available to the students,” he added.
Thornburgh said the upgrade is a two-part process.
“First, we do an RFP and bring the experts in to walk the whole system with their guys and point out what we need to target, the routers and switches that have to be in place,” he said.
“The second part is invitation for bid for the hardware to upgrade so we can easily accommodate 25,000 devices,” he added.
According to Thornburgh, this proposal increases PSS’ investment in technology from $4.3 million to $4.8 million.
“Part 1 will probably be 50-60K and Part 2 for hardware is where the big costs are. We have to do Part 1 to know approximately what Part 2 should cost. We already submitted this to the Department of Education [and] they told us basically that they are fine with this,” he said.
“The approval will come once the letter is signed by the [board] chair and the [education] commissioner,” he added.
Board of Education member Herman Guerrero said the poor internet in schools have always been remedied with Band-Aid solutions.
“We’ve just been installing additional Wi-Fi or direct line in the schools. We need to have better grasp of it systematically on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. My experience was all the kids are waiting to get internet, then it drops and one gets in and this is not the way it should work because the kids are not learning this way,” he said.
BOE member Florine Hofschneider shared Guerrero’s sentiments, adding that parents should be looped in these plans.
“I know parents want everything to happen yesterday so we need to keep them in the know so that they become more understanding,” she said.
The board later agreed to publish plans for the system upgrade in the school paper for teachers, students, parents, and community to read.