Personal computers have become the norm in some of Lake Stevens School District’s classrooms in the past month with the help of money from two different federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grants.
The grants, which totaled over $140 million were used to bring high speed internet, in the form of over 1,000 miles of broadband fiber, to rural communities within Snohomish County. The expansion projects have helped not only residents in rural communities receive high speed internet services but it has also given businesses, hospitals, libraries and schools access for the first time.
An additional 600 miles of broadband fiber will continue to be installed this summer through a joint effort between private companies, cities, local public utility districts and counties by NoaNet, the company who is overseeing the construction of the projects.
“Broadband expands the realm of possibility for communities that lacked a high-speed Internet connection in the past,” said Greg Marney, NoaNet CEO. “In addition to improvements to medical care, schools, libraries, government, businesses and individuals, expanding broadband makes good economic sense by creating immediate jobs and attracting economic investment to these areas.”
Because of this expansion fourth and fifth grade students at Sunnycrest Elementary School, seventh grade students at North Lake Middle School and Special Education students at Mt. Pilchuck Elementary school have been able to perform some of their work on Chromebooks, a laptop computer device.
Before the fiber optic lines were put into place the LSSD’s network infrastructure used copper telephone lines. Through this project and the support of the technology levy in 2010 the district was able to increase their internet speed and bandwidth making wi-fi possible in schools.
“Having access to relevant educational resources is essential for our students and educators,” said Dr. Amy Beth Cook, Superintendent of Lake Stevens School District. “Our new fiber connections make technology more accessible for students and staff, which increases collaboration. The connections also create a foundation for the continued expansion of our technology offerings throughout the district.”
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-1) visited Sunnycrest Elementary School and met with students, educators and NoaNet staff to see first hand how these new cables have changed learning within the classroom.
“As technology advances, we have to make sure our policies and infrastructure keep up, and connectivity is key to this,” said Representative DelBene. “Ensuring our schools have fast, reliable broadband connections will dramatically expand and improve educational opportunities for our children and better prepare them for a 21st century economy. Washington is a leader in technology and innovation. We need to have a reliable high-speed Internet connection in our communities to grow businesses, create jobs and stay competitive.”
The students in Mr. Brandt’s fourth grade classroom were excited to share what they are doing with their Chromebooks.
“It works a lot better than publishing by hand,” Kaya Abera said. “If you spell a word wrong you can just fix it. We’re also learning how to type and use a computer.”
The students were in the process of creating a blog using information they have learned during their Medieval unit in class.
“It’s a lot easier to use and I like it a lot better,” Ryan Van Der Put said about his Chromebook and creating his blog. “We’ve also written stories and tall tales with it.”
DelBene was excited to see the success that the grant money is bringing to rural communities and schools.
“It’s about access to opportunity,” she said. “This is about making sure every child has access to opportunities wherever they live.”
Despite its size and vast rural areas, Washington is now recognized as one of the most wired states in the nation because of this collaborative project, noted Marney.
For more information visit www.washingtonbroadband.org or www.noanet.net.