By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
A major technology upgrade in a dozen Quincy School District buildings is expected to be completed by the time school starts in August.
"There's a little cleanup stuff that we'll be doing over the summer -- a couple of little wiring projects -- but other than that, all of our buildings will have wireless access for the school year," Joel Murphy, the district's business manager, said this week.
Wireless Internet access was made available initially at Quincy High School, the Early Childhood and Family Center, the Board of Education offices and Quincy Junior High School. It was then gradually expanded to Baldwin Intermediate School and the seven elementary schools.
This project took place thanks to Knapheide Manufacturing Co. and the Knapheide family, which announced in December 2012 they would partner with the district and the Quincy Public Schools Foundation to help implement a major technology upgrade.
This venture called for Knapheide's information technology department to team with the district's IT department to design and install a wireless and wired infrastructure throughout the school system. The upgrade was expected to result in network and wireless Internet access in classrooms, a mobile digital environment in instructional areas of school buildings, a centralized infrastructure to support the technology, and devices to access the Internet.
Murphy said nearly all of these goals have been accomplished, though the district is still in the process of acquiring more devices to meet the needs of students.
Adams Elementary School got wireless access earlier than other elementary schools because two of its third-grade classrooms were slated to take part in field testing new state assessments that will go into effect across Illinois in the 2014-15 school year. The school used wireless laptops loaned from Quincy High School to fill out the tests.
Meanwhile, the Quincy School Board on Monday approved a plan to start using the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test to measure growth of students in grades 3-8 and stop using the Stanford Achievement Test. The MAP exams rely heavily on the use of computers, and some elementary schools don't have computer labs. So the district is planning to buy portable carts containing 30 computers for each building so the carts can be moved from classroom to classroom as needed for the testing.
Murphy said administrators are updating the district's technology plan to determine a strategy for acquiring other technology devices that may be needed in the future and determining how they will be used as part of the educational process.
"We're working with the foundation to develop a plan that's more practical and provides some future planning," he said. "We want to make sure it fits with the curriculum."
Murphy said the wireless systems installed in schools will be immediately available next fall for all district-owned computers used by students and teachers. In addition, staff members will be able to log into the wireless networks using their personal devices, including phones and tablet computers.
However, Murphy it's not yet clear if students will be given the ability to tap into the wireless systems using their personal devices. He said various safeguards and usage policies still need to be worked out.
"There are a lot of puzzles and pieces that go into this," he said.
Murphy said the donation of money and support from Knapheide made a big difference in the district's ability to install the wireless systems in all of the buildings.
"It really did jump-start the process for us and put us on a course to move forward," he said.