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Hanover schools upgrading computers, technology

Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 9:38 am

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During the last school budget season, concerned citizens pleaded for funding to address the school system’s aging, and in some cases, obsolete technology and software.

But now some of those concerns will be addressed, according to Terri Hechler, director of technology services, who said Tuesday evening that a number of technology enhancements would take place one week after school lets out for the summer.

Roughly 3,200 computers will be upgraded over the summer to Windows 7 operating systems. During Spring Break, Hechler’s staff added more memory to those computers.

In addition to the upgrades, more than 2,000 desktop computers will be replaced, too. Those desktops will be also equipped with Windows 7.

Another 767 outdated laptops will be replaced and each school will also receive an extra laptop cart with 30 portable computers going to each secondary school and 26 dedicated to each elementary school.

On the software side, all Hanover school computers will be upgraded to Microsoft Office 2013. In addition, Hechler said that school officials worked out a deal with Microsoft so that students, faculty and school staff will be able to download the same software on their home devices and computers.

“That way when students or teachers work at home and when they work at school, it’ll be on same release of the software,” Hechler said. “So we’re really happy that we’re able to offer that opportunity so that they’ll be a common platform across the board.”

Some file servers will be replaced at middle and high schools “to accommodate the file growth,” Hechler said.

These technology enhancements will be supported by money included in the recently approved budget and from some previous years’ budgeted Capital Improvement Plans.

In addition to upgrades in technology, they will also upgrade the school system’s infrastructure and enterprise network, a fix costing roughly $400,000. One aspect of that will involve enhancing the security system, or Firewall.

“That’ll allow us to position ourselves such as that as the network continues to grow, as we see more mobile devices added and as our Wi-Fi network begins to gain popularity both with our ‘BYOB program’ and our wireless network machines on the private network,” Hechler said.

Several of the school system’s online platforms will be upgraded as well, including SchoolNet, the school’s assessment system, and in July, the PowerSchool student information system.

Also at the end of the summer, a new online gradebook system will be released. Hechler said it should make things easier for teachers, especially when accessing it at home.

She added that staff does not expect the interface of the online grading system to change.

Glenn T. Millican Jr., Mechanicsville District school board member, was concerned with the limited opportunities for students to charge their individual devices within the school buildings.

He said that students may be charging devices in libraries but don’t have anywhere else in the building to do so.

In response, Hechler said some of the computers on the mobile labs that she’ll be ordering this summer will have extended battery life and that carts will also double as charging stations.

At this moment, there are no self-charge stations in the schools, though Hechler said she would discuss with other staff about the possibility of getting those.

Ashland District School Board member Hank Lowry Jr. asked if Hechler was pleased with the technology and devices they currently have.

“I think we’re building over time,” Hechler said.

She added that this summer, they will focus on “catch up and replace” and “building the base line” so that technology and software will be consistent throughout the school system. Then, Hechler said her staff will be able to figure out whether there is a need for further upgrades.

Most of the improvements will take place during the summer before the new school year begins.