WiFi Headed to Washoe Classrooms

By: Rebecca Kitchen/Catherine Van Email
By: Rebecca Kitchen/Catherine Van Email
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The Washoe County School Board has approved $12 million toward making all schools in the district WiFi compatible.

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UPDATE 4PM Tuesday, 4/8/14:
The Washoe County School Board has approved $12 million toward making all schools in the district WiFi compatible.

Pete Etchart, the Chief Operation Officer for the WCSD says it will take about two years to install WiFi infrastructure in all the schools, but it's an effort that will even out the playing field for both students and teachers.

"Schools around the country are seeing more and more information technology being utilized in the schools and we're kind of being left behind there," he said. "We have some schools that have it, a lot of schools do not."

Technology is one of the main priorities the board has for the schools in the district. David Aiazzi, a member of the WCSD Board of Trustees says children are being taught to use technology both inside and outside the classrooms.

"Some of the tests that have to be done now are all on the internet. School books will be based on the internet in the near future," he said. "I think that will end up saving the school district a lot of money."

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RENO, NV - The Washoe County School Board of Trustees will debate Tuesday on how to spend the remaining $73 million in capital reserves from the 2002 rollover bond.

Up for consideration: a proposal to spend $12 million to make every Washoe County school WiFi compatible.

"We all see how technology is becoming a bigger and bigger part in education today. So I see that as I go into schools and I talk to principals and I talk to teachers and I ask them what the biggest need is," Pete Etchart, the Chief Operation Officer for the WCSD said. "What I hear over and over again is the need for technology in the classrooms."

School officials says they are not ignoring the maintenance needs of the county's schools, but are trying to balance repairs with using the money the way the voters approved.

"We do have more needs than we do revenues, but at the same time I think the trustees want to be consistent with what the public approved in 2002 with the rollover bond issue- and that does include IT infrastructure," Etchart said.

Schools officials say they are also trying to stay proactive and give students the tools they need to learn in a technology driven world.

"I think it's imperative that our kids are learning technology. They're using it before school, they're using it after school. I think we need to have it in our schools," Etchart said.

The bond expires in 2017 and it will take at least two years to install WiFi in every school. Currently only eight of the 93 schools have WiFi capabilities, and Etchart says the upgrades will help give students in different schools the same opportunities.

"It's also an equity issue. Some schools have it a lot of schools do not. So I think the oversight panel for school facilities was looking at trying to have equity throughout the school district."

The Board of Trustees will meet from 2-6pm Tuesday afternoon at the Central Administrative Building on E. Ninth Street. Etchart says it's likely a decision will be made at that time.

The trustees will also consider a proposal to use $15 million of the bond money for school repairs, and $3.5 million for security upgrades.


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