Olentangy school board members have given their nod to more than a half-million dollars in purchases that will blanket the district in a more-reliable, faster wireless network.

Olentangy school board members have given their nod to more than a half-million dollars in purchases that will blanket the district in a more-reliable, faster wireless network.

Board members last Thursday, Nov. 14, approved purchases for the district's Wireless Density Expansion Project totaling more than $550,000.

The project aims to add access points and focuses on strengthening wireless infrastructure.

Mike Testa, director of technology for the Olentangy Local School District, said a sharp increase in the number of wireless devices entering the district's buildings, along with a growing need for access in classrooms has necessitated the upgrade.

"We have a lot more devices going on the network, over 10,000 at any given time," Testa said. "The single most important thing we can do is provide access to the Internet and our network.

"Our long-term goals are anytime, anywhere access to learning. That involves the wireless network and how we manage that, and how we give access. You have to build a solid infrastructure."

School board President Kevin O'Brien echoed Testa's sentiments.

"Investing in Wi-Fi and bandwidth is almost as important as classrooms and books, moving forward," O'Brien said.

Testa said funds already were set aside for the improvements.

He added the upgrades likely will take about a full year to implement, but said he isn't worried about snags along the way and believes the project is simply a continuation of what he and the district already have tried to achieve.

"This is more of the same," he said. "I don't foresee any issues with doing this. We're pretty comfortable with these technologies."

One other contributing factor in the necessity of the project was the state's new PARCC assessments, which require students to use a wireless device during testing. Each of these devices would have to be on the network, and Testa said while the tests aren't yet mandatory, the district must prepare for that possibility.

"You have to be prepared for these assessments and how the students are using these devices to get assessed," he said. "One way or the other, we needed to do this, whether it's assessments from the state or just general assessments."

The district also will improve its management system, allowing for more-efficient use of the network, eliminating redundancies and improving the network's system of managing access.

Regardless of access or other networking issues, Testa made it clear the district's priority is getting students access to the web in an ever-changing education landscape.

"Nothing is more important than giving the students Internet access," he said. "Full access to applications on the Internet is the big push. That's going to drive everything."