OVERVIEW

IMPROVED HIGH-SPEED WIRELESS INFRASTRUCTURE CATCHES UP TO GROWTH

  • March 22, 2018—With the third-largest school district in the state and significant growth in its 187 square miles – 40 of CFISD’s 91 campuses have been built since 2000 – administrators and leaders have worked to stay ahead of issues that come from increased size.

    One of those tackled thanks to a $1.2 billion Bond voted for in 2014 is improved high-speed wireless access and infrastructure, including increased coverage not only inside the campuses and other facilities, but outdoors as well. In achieving this goal and keeping CFISD ahead of the curve with technology, $90 million were dedicated to upgrades. That included $10 million for a high-speed wireless infrastructure.

    The project wasn’t a simple task, said Frankie Jackson, CFISD chief technology officer, adding that every step of the upgrade was a major challenge. That included stabilizing and upgrading the systems that were already in place. In addition to keeping up with growth and accounting for more students, staff and buildings, technology upgrades and infrastructure had to also account for older campuses and facilities.

    “It had been named with various vendors that this was a ‘Herculean’ project and that’s exactly what it was,” Jackson said. “This is a district that grew very fast. The staff had done a tremendous job in keeping up as best as it could, but at some point, whenever the district went from 60,000 to 116,000 students, it was a time with this Bond to do a complete infrastructure upgrade.”

    Among the numerous steps along the way included upgrading servers and systems, replacing older equipment, increasing network bandwidth capacity and providing campus technicians with tools and knowledge.

    “We had over 60 design meetings with many of our vendors,” said Jackson, who also oversaw eight months of design work.

    CFISD contracted Aruba Networks and HP for the enterprise wireless system, with integration by Layer 3 Communications. The wireless technology used within the district is the same that can be found at Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports.

    With the upgraded system and infrastructure, staff now have the ability to securely connect up to three personal devices to the wireless network.

    High school students can bring and connect up to three personal devices securely, while middle school students can connect up to two devices and elementary school students can bring and connect one.

    This upgrade takes CFISD from regularly seeing more than 90,000 devices on its network to approximately 276,000. In addition, the district serves nearly 87,000 wired devices with plans for roughly 35,000 wireless devices from visitors.

    That total – more than 490,000 devices – accounts for one of the largest K-12 education networks in the nation.

    And the growth and upgrades have helped serve the needs of CFISD staff and students. Feedback, including the strength of the signal and staying connected, have been positive, Jackson said.