Networks and Wireless | News

Southern California School District Overhauls Wi-Fi Network

A southern California school district serving more than 17,000 students and 1,000 educators across 28 campuses is beefing up its wireless network. Ventura Unified School District, in Ventura, CA, has deployed a new wireless LAN system to improve coverage and support for its 1-to-1 and interactive learning programs as well as a mobile healthcare clinic.

VUSD chose Ruckus Wireless's ZoneFlex Smart Wireless LAN system, including 500 ZoneFlex dual-band 802.11n Smart Wi-Fi access points (APs), for its schools and 140,000-square foot district office, according to a statement released this week by Ruckus. The new WLAN replaces a legacy network that struggled to meet the district's growing demand for wireless. "We were encountering problems daily due to dropped connections and limited coverage," said Ted Malos, VUSD's director of IT, in the prepared statement.

To deliver wireless coverage across each campus, ceiling-mounted APs were installed in every other classroom at each school. Every AP connects to the LAN. Unused cable drops, available in most classrooms, enabled a path to the network closet where installers patched the connections to the district's Power over Ethernet (POE) switches. VUSD was able to integrate its new system into its existing wiring closets without the need for "mid-span power injectors or electrical services," according to the statement. The APs are managed by one ZoneDirector 5000 controller located at the district office.

The wireless network supports VUSD's mobile computing and interactive learning initiatives, said Malos. In addition to using mobile laptop carts and netbooks in its classrooms, VUSD also works with a number of agencies, including the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association (NOAA), to provide programs that enable students to participate in live videoconference discussions with experts from different fields.

"In one of our projects with NOAA, elementary school students assembled in their 'cafetorium' for a videoconference session with a teacher located across the country and 70 feet underwater in the Florida Keys," said Malos. "The experience for them was awesome – and having a reliable wireless infrastructure made it possible."

The WLAN system supports a mobile healthcare clinic, hosted at one of the district's elementary school sites. The clinic, located in the school's parking lot, about 250 feet from the closest indoor AP, uses a wireless Internet connection to maintain its medical records. Before the WLAN installation, clinic administrators used a "hotspot" laptop card to connect to the Web. Now administrators log into the school's wireless network and maintain a 52 Mbps signal while connected.

VUSD's new wireless network also supports its student information system, Aequitas Q, used by the district's 1,500 teachers and staff.

About the Author

Kanoe Namahoe is online editor for 1105 Media's Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].