by Sarah Einselen
Pioneer school board members approved spending $22,051 on a new Internet firewall and filter software, Lightspeed, that should increase speed and improve reliability for teachers and students surfing the Web.
The school’s license for its old software runs out this year, said superintendent Dave Bess, so this fall was a good opportunity to switch from a general-use firewall to one specifically designed for public school systems.
“We’ve had one for a long time, and it’s more of a generic, and we’ve grown leaps and bounds in terms of our traffic since we bought that,” Bess said. “As we’re gearing up here to go one-to-one in another year and a half, this is another step toward that.”
Board members voted in June to upgrade the wireless Internet infrastructure at both Pioneer Elementary and Pioneer Junior-Senior High using reserve monies in the capital projects fund. More steps toward getting a laptop for every student are in store, too, Bess said, including additional software upgrades.
The Lightspeed vendor will start installing the new firewall software during school, Bess said, but in such a way that school Internet and computer usage won’t be interrupted.
“They’re pretty slick at installing this and taking pieces at a time so we’re not going to be down and out of service,” Bess said. Then, once it’s up, it will also give more flexibility to teachers who need it.
“This has the capability for an individual teacher to be able to, let’s say, open up the pipeline for students to be able to research or get online for something they would ordinarily not be allowed to do,” Bess said.
An example, he said, might be high school students doing legitimate research on reproductive systems for a biology class.