Illinois HS district selects cloud computing provider

Comcast Corporation today announced that Township High School District 214 , the second largest high school district in Illinois, is using Comcast Metro Ethernet services to deliver cloud computing, virtualization and streaming video in the classroom as well as other data, voice and video services that support more than 12,000 high school students across eight communities in northern Illinois.

District 214 implements a number of innovative technology programs that use resources more effectively, enhance teaching tools and reduce costs. These programs require a high-performance network to support more than 6,200 computers, 1,300 VoIP phones, 850 iPads, 225 IP cameras and 400 wireless access points. One innovative example is the district’s use of IlliniCloud, a cloud-based, statewide IT network built by Illinois school districts, for the backup of finance, payroll, human resources, and student information. Comcast’s Metro Ethernet provides the capacity and bandwidth necessary to connect to IlliniCloud for 24/7 access and storage of this critical data.

“We believe the future is in cloud computing, and virtualization is the first step to bringing the district to a completely cloud-based environment,” said Keith Bockwoldt, director of technology at District 214. “Kids today are growing up in a digital world, and we want to prepare our students, educators and community for the future. Comcast’s Metro Ethernet gives us the capacity and bandwidth to deliver cloud, virtualization, streaming video and other bandwidth-intensive systems to better serve our students and help keep us on budget.”

District 214’s server virtualization project has significantly reduced hardware and energy costs. Connected by a Comcast Metro Ethernet backbone, the virtualized servers have saved the district more than $330,000 in hardware replacements and $45,000 in reduced energy costs. The virtualized environment also has lowered carbon emissions. In addition, the district’s HVAC systems are now monitored and controlled from a central location across its Comcast wide area network, increasing efficiency in HVAC management.

Also, District 214 is using streaming video services and hosted applications to deliver additional curriculum to classrooms and desktop computers. Plus, under a recently-launched pilot project, 850 students will receive iPads, which will reduce the cost of physical textbooks and software licenses, and facilitate information sharing both in school and at home.

For upcoming projects, District 214 is exploring an inter-district videoconferencing system for office meetings, which would increase efficiency and reduce travel time and mileage reimbursement expenses. The district also has moved to online enrollment for all incoming freshmen, and started a pilot healthcare program that allows participating students to interact with hospitals and other medical professionals using videoconferencing and laptop computers.

District 214 is recognized by the Center for Digital Education and the National School Boards Association as a Top Ten Technology School District in the nation. It has also received the 2010 Lincoln Bronze Award from the Illinois-based Lincoln Foundation for "Commitment to Excellence" for its efforts in continuous improvement.