Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 18, 2014

Fairfield school administrators to choose wireless system

By DIANE VANCE | Dec 17, 2013

The Fairfield school board Monday approved administrators choosing and purchasing a wireless system for the district by the end of December, not to exceed $67,000, after hearing the research and recommendations about five companies.

The quotes for service include:

• Aruba, $134,355 for one year.

• Aerohive, $83,231 for five years.

• Enterasys, $70,929, no time specified.

• Meraki, $66,554 for five years, if purchased prior to Dec. 27; and $72,636 for five years if purchased after Dec. 27.

• Ruckus, $60,646 for five years, if purchased by Dec. 27.

Because the two favored vendors, Meraki and Ruckus, have special year-end prices, district technology director John Grunwald wanted the authorization to make the purchase without needing to return for board approval later this month when no meetings are scheduled.

Grunwald and Superintendent Art Sathoff will make the final decision. If a decision is not made by the end of the month, then a new recommendation will come to the board at a later time.

Grunwald reviewed the process his department took in looking to update the district’s wireless system.

“In preparing for the one-on-one initiative [individual computers for each student in upper grades] in 2015, we need to make sure our infrastructure is up to handling it,” he said.

He formed a committee and invited five wireless vendors to give presentations. Three vendors installed test equipment for staff and students to use.

“The equipment testing ended last week,” said Grunwald. “IP Solutions is doing a network analysis for us, and we’re waiting on that for the final decision.”

Grunwald sent maps of the district buildings and outlined what is currently used for wireless technology. Each vendor met with his committee personally and held multiple conversations on the phone.

Grunwald presented each vendor with non-negotiable requirements for a new wireless system: must have public access, must fit the plan to be one-on-one computers with density and coverage, must be able to manage current and future traffic/extra devices, and potential cloud-based solution.

“Meraki is cloud-based, Ruckus would bring equipment here,” said Grunwald. “Meraki is backed by Sysco. Meraki has four controllers, and if one goes out, the system bypasses and uses another, so cloud-based has a redundancy built-in. Ruckus would need to replace a controller if one went out. Needing to replace a controller would about make up the difference in the two vendors’ purchase prices. Ruckus has a representative in Milwaukee, Wis.

“Meraki has a service representative an hour and a half away. The company has worked with the district before. It is very responsive and has very helpful customer service.”

Grunwald said a new wireless system could be ready for use about a week after receiving the equipment.

He indicated he would need an additional $19,000 that is not in his annual budget to complete the purchase.

“Once we pay the purchase price, there is no annual fee,” he said. “We’ll use the system for five years and still have the equipment after five years.”

Sathoff said some of the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy has been saved for technology, so funding the purchase wouldn’t be a problem.

“I also have $25,000 in Microsoft vouchers that will be coming back to the district,” said Grunwald. “I don’t foresee any other major purchases in technology for this school year.”

In addition to preparing for a one-on-one computer program, the district is taking advantage of the Fairfield High School renovation project to update its technology platform.

The new wireless system will replace technology in all district buildings except the Administration/Curriculum/Technology Center and district transportation building on 23rd Street.

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