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$1.15 million savings in store for District 230

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A faster, broader information superhighway is on its way to District 230 high schools, as well as the Village of Orland Park, according to plans that target an anticipated implementation date of Aug. 1 for the schools.

And, according to District 230 officials, rebates plus intergovernmental agreements on related aspects of technology and networking may save District 230 a total of $1.15 million on the projects.

         At the District 230 Board of Education meeting on April 27, members authorized the administration to sign a contract with First Communications to serve as a second internet service provider (ISP) in preparation for all students having Chromebook laptops in the upcoming school year.

Approximately 8,300 students attend the three District 230 high schools: Sandburg, 13300 S. LaGrange Rd. in Orland Park; Stagg, 8015 W. 1111th St. in Palos Hills and Andrew, 9001 W. 171st St. in Tinley Park.

Chief Technology Officer John Connolly explained that the district is in the third year of a five-year contract with Comcast as the primary internet service provider but more bandwidth is needed. Currently, Comcast Internet is providing 1 gigabyte (GB) of bandwidth for students and 600 megabits per second for staff. According to information provided to the board, the student internet circuit is maxed out every day, depending on the period. First Communications will now provide another 1 GB of bandwidth into the primary data center in the Administration Building.

“Our students are increasing use of digital learning resources and devices. With our expansion of all four grade levels with Chromebooks next year, we needed to increase our internet bandwidth. First Communications allows us to increase our bandwidth at a discounted price along with adding an additional ISP to increase reliability. For example, if Comcast Internet goes down, we can function with First Communications and vice versa,” said Connolly.

The monthly cost of the additional 1 GB is $1,912.50 or $22,950 annually for a total of $68,850 for the 36-month contract, which has been budgeted. But Connolly pointed out that the internet services are eligible for 50 percent discounts through the eRate program, which provides discounts to help U.S. schools and libraries get affordable telecommunications and internet access. Therefore, although the district budgeted for the full $22,950 annual cost, an annual reimbursement of $11,475 is expected.

In a related move, the board also authorized the administration to sign a contract with G4S Secure Integration to upgrade wide area network (WAN) fiber for an implementation cost of $646,208. This is also eligible for a 50 percent reimbursement through the eRate Program.

The stated goals of the WAN project, being undertaken in partnership with the village of Orland Park, are to increase bandwidth, save money and improve internet route flexibility and traffic management and security.

The initial cost includes installing fiber in conduit that the village had installed between 131st and 179th streets as part of the LaGrange Road construction project. This would increase the bandwidth strength of the district from 3 GB to 10 GB, enough to meet the technology needs for many years to come, said officials.

The cost to the district may also be lowered by $88,000 pending some agreements with the village. An Illinois State Board of Education grant of $323,104 is also under review.

“With the increase in bandwidth, we needed to increase our wide area network as well for internal traffic. This will provide a faster reliable network for our students at a discounted rate. This will also support future technologies as our self-provisioned fiber can be expanded to match any growing need. Timeline for this is next school year.”

Connolly noted that the WAN agreement will not be finalized until the intergovernmental agreement is approved by the Orland Park Village Board. Frank Florentine, the director of technology for Orland Park, said he plans to bring the agreement to the Village Board for a vote at the June 5 meeting,

An intergovernmental agreement with District 135 is also needed, because District 230 will be using part of District’s 135’s fiber conduit on 151st Street, to link the LaGrange Road conduit with the District 230 administration building at 15100 S. 94th Ave. With all three entities sharing the cost of the annual maintenance, and the 50 percent discount through eRate, District 230 is expecting to save $1.15 million on the project.

“This will be a win-win situation for everybody,” said Florentine last week. He said that extending the conduit to 179th Street also will help ongoing efforts to develop the regional mixed-use campus along the I-80 corridor.

Before the meeting began, School Board President Rick Nogal administered the oath of office to Melissa Gracias, Susan Dalton, Tony Serratore and Kate Murphy-Peterson, who were all re-elected without opposition on April 4. The board made no changes to the current leadership, reaffirming Nogal as president, Gracias as vice-president and Dalton as secretary.

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