All East Providence schools gain grant money for wireless capabilities

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EAST PROVIDENCE — At its meeting Tuesday night, Feb. 11, the East Providence School Committee heard of and authorized a proposal presented by City Information Technology Director Kelly Ahrens, which allows the school department to procure upwards of a half-million of some $20 million in grant money approved by voters in the state for upgrades in the wireless capabilities in classrooms system wide.

Calling it an “amazing opportunity for the school district,” Ms. Ahrens told the Committee the city was prepared to receive $494,000 in grant awards from the Rhode Island Department of Education’s Wireless Classroom Initiative. The money will be used to install wireless internet access to students and teachers in every classroom in every one of the city’s 12 school buildings, including the career and technical center on the East Providence High School campus.

The grant money is part of a $20 million technology infrastructure capital bond initiated by the state and approved by voters in the 2012 general election.

“The most amazing thing about this is when we first met with RIDE we still weren’t sure we could receive this money, but now every single school in the district will have wireless capabilities,” Ms. Ahrens said. “It’s a wonderful thing. Everyone is now beginning to realize the importance of wireless in the classrooms.”

The breakdown of funding by school building is as follows:
East Providence High School: $151.517
Career and Tech Center: $24, 540
Riverside Middle School: $69,855
Martin Middle School: $81,198
Kent Heights Elementary: $16,525
Waddington Elementary: $49,865
Hennessey Elementary: $15,794
Whiteknact Elementary: $19,597
Oldham Elementary: $14,114
Silver Spring Elementary: $16,880
Orlo Avenue Elementary: $16,871
Francis Elementary: $19,014

Ms. Ahrens noted the process of reviewing the needs and requirements of each building to make them fully wireless capable has been going on for the last year. A contractor has already been approved by RIDE. Ms. Ahrens said expects the process of installation to be completed throughout the summer with all classrooms being ready for use with the start of school in the fall of 2014.

In addition, the district has already acquired some 300 new computers and 80 Apple IPADs (tablets), equipment needed in anticipation of East Providence’s expected participation in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing program, but that can also be utilized throughout the curriculum on a daily basis by students and teachers.

“We’re already thinking about new ways of doing business in East Providence public schools,” Ms. Ahrens added. “This completely changes anything we thought we could ever do in our schools.”

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