Princeton schools expected to soon have wireless network
Rural schools like Princeton in Colusa County and Lake, Plaza and Capay in Glenn County will soon have high-speed wireless Internet.
The Glenn County Office of Education's Wi-Fi tower project, although significantly different from the original plans, should be completed within the next eight weeks, school officials said Wednesday.
"Smarter Balance will happen," said Superintendent of Schools Tracey Quarne, speaking of the new Common Core Standards, which will require students to take academic tests online in 2015.
Internet access has been a major concern for rural schools since the new computerized tests were approved, officials said.
The tower project, which originally called for two 100-foot towers to be constructed at the Willows and Orland administration buildings, was supposed to be completed before the start of the school year, but was delayed when the contractors were called to an out-of-state job.
Now, the result of last week's test using a balloon to determine the two 100-foot towers would not work to connect all the small schools needing high speed Internet.
"There is not straight line of sight between Princeton and Willows," Quarne said. "We are dealing with some pretty tall trees between here and there."
Quarne and the company, Alpha Omega Wireless, have come up with a new plan to work around the problem, and still provide high-speed Internet to Princeton and schools in northern Glenn County.
Instead of two 100-foot towers in Orland and Willows, Quarne said one 100-foot tower will be constructed in Willows and one 40-foot tower will be constructed in Princeton.
But due to costs, the Orland tower will be replaced with a receiver on top of the building in order to bounce high-speed Internet to Plaza, Lake and Capay elementary schools through a contract with AT&T.
The Willows tower, once constructed, will connect Willowglenn School, housed in the juvenile correction facility in Willows, Walden Academy, which is housed at St. Monica's Parish, and beam a signal all the way to the Princeton tower.
For the mountainous community of Elk Creek, the Office of Education originally planned to bounce a signal off the county-owned Needham Tower, but now plans to access the AT&T tower west of Willows for that service as well.
The two largest school districts, Willows and Orland Unified, already have high-speed Internet capabilities, officials said.
The total cost of the tower project is now estimated to be about $420,000, Quarne said, although still significantly less in the long run than if each school had to contract with AT&T for Internet services.
The state Board of Education is set to hear an appeal in early November by Glenn County Board of Education to use state grant funds specifically earmarked for school construction.
Officials believe they have a good chance of winning the appeal because the scope of school construction has changed to keep up with technology.
Meanwhile, the Board of Education authorized the project from the agency's reserves.
CONTACT reporter Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.