At Groton-Dunstable Regional School District, technology is an essential tool that enhances our curriculum and supports the delivery of engaging and effective instruction. In order to provide a technologically infused educational environment, every classroom must be equipped with diverse technologies to support teaching and learning. Technology must be in support of our current proven curriculum and district vision and goals. Using technology must be how students learn, not what they learn.
In order to support these ideals, a five-year Strategic Technology Plan was created under the assistance of the Department of Technology & Digital Learning, faculty, students, and our community. A major goal outlined in our Strategic Technology Plan was the need to maintain and support a quality, high-speed technology, and infrastructure system, which is essential to the advancement of digital learning. Without modern infrastructure across our schools, the steps we had already taken towards elevating digital learning and growth would diminish greatly.
The steps detailed in the Strategic Technology Plan surrounding the infrastructure connected to the following themes:
- Increase Internet Bandwidth;
- Continued Support, Maintenance of Network Infrastructure;
- Wireless Access Point Replacement
- Replace Current Telephone Communication System;
- Adopt, Promote Technology Replacement Cycle to Support Curriculum Initiatives.
In 2017, the Department of Technology & Digital Learning outlined a strategic roadmap that provided the framework and a time frame to accomplish the needed improvements to the infrastructure. The first steps began in upgrading the Groton-Dunstable Regional High School.
With funding from our budget and matching grants provided by the Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries (E-Rate), we replaced aging switches with HP/Aruba chassis switches capable of running power-over-ethernet. With six data closets at the high school, 10Gb fiber optic cabling was installed, connecting each closet for blazing fast speeds. Roughly 100 wireless access points from Aerohive Networks replaced existing units. When this project was complete, we received over $60,000 from the E-Rate Program in the form of a reimbursement for the infrastructure materials and labor.
The following year, in 2018, we started the remaining infrastructure upgrades to the preschool, elementary, middle, and after-school buildings. With funding backed by a Town Meeting warrant, grants from the E-Rate program and the Digital Connections Partnership Schools Grant, which was a partnership between the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Office of Municipal & School Technology (MassIT), all buildings received upgraded Cat-6 wiring (where needed), 10Gb fiber cabling between data closets and outside runs between buildings, HP/Aruba chassis switches, wireless access points from Aerohive Networks and our outdated telephone system was replaced by a Voice over IP (VoIP) phone system, taking advantage of our new network abilities. Also, during this time, our local internet provider increased, by nearly triple, our bandwidth to 1Gb access speeds.
When the second phase of the infrastructure project was completed, Groton-Dunstable Regional Schools will have received roughly $34,000 from the E-Rate Program and an additional $279,000 from the Digital Connections Partnership Schools Grant. All in, over the past couple years, the district received nearly $375,000 in grants to offset the costs of our needed infrastructure project.
The amount of time spent in the planning, budgeting and project management phases, along with vendor meetings, consideration for the correct equipment, (and much, much more) was immense and to watch our Strategic Technology Plan come to fruition, alongside an incredible team, is one of the highlights over the past few years.