A giant radio telescope, a small school and a Wi-Fi problem

By Jon Gold, Network World |  Mobile & Wireless, education, wifi

The Appalachian Mountains, coupled with the fact that the GBT is located in the National Radio Quiet Zone, mean that it's largely protected from the radio emissions of, say, Washington, D.C., located 150 miles to the east. The quiet zone's rules and regulations strictly regulate all radio transmissions, allowing both the GBT and a highly restricted NSA facility nearby to operate their ultra-sensitive gear.


Tiny Green Bank Elementary/Middle School - located just over half a mile down the road from the facility - is another story, however.

The school, with its enrollment of 261, is in a tough position. Though quiet zone rules ban it from using Wi-Fi due to its proximity to the GBT, the rest of the schools in Pocahontas County are planning a move to digital textbooks in the next academic year. Moreover, the state of West Virginia will move to an online-only standardized aptitude test the year after that, which will also require Internet access for each student.

Pocahontas County Schools technology coordinator Ruth Bland worries that the district simply doesn't have the resources to cope.

"Short of wiring every classroom to have at least 25 drops and a laptop for every student, we will have a very difficult time providing digital textbooks or access to take the testing. The drops will require quite a number of switches and miles of cabling. All very costly," she says.


Green Bank Elementary/Middle has a strong and long-standing relationship with the scientific facility up the road - the NRAO installed Cat-5 cable throughout the school years ago, and Beaudet says the organization provides as much support as possible.

Bland - who is also a former principal at Green Bank - has nothing but praise for the role played by the NRAO in helping to educate the school's students.

"They're world-class. They have been absolutely wonderful to Green Bank school," she says.

Pocahontas County is far from wealthy. Data from the 2010 census indicates that 15.3% of the 8,719 people living there are below the poverty line, and the median household income is a little less than $34,000.

Bland says the school district needs help, either from state legislators or from elsewhere.

"It'd be wonderful if a major corporation would come down and take us under their wing," she says.

Spokesperson Liza Cordeiro told Network World that the West Virginia Department of Education is aware of the issue, and that discussions with the school and the county have taken place.One potential solution is approaching the federal government for additional monies to address the issue, she said.


Originally published on Network World |  Click here to read the original story.
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