Prince George’s County Public Schools Creates One of the Nation’s Largest K-12 Wi-Fi Deployments

Aruba Networks, Inc. today announced that Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), the second largest K-12 school district in Maryland, is deploying an Aruba Mobility Defined-Network to support more than 65,000 mobile devices, including 16,000 iPads the district is rolling out to classrooms. The district plans to connect all 204 of its schools, 20 administrative and maintenance buildings, and even school bus lots, to the new Aruba network.

During the past three years, PGCPS has experienced a massive increase in mobile devices – both personal and district-issued – across its schools and district buildings. The district has moved away from having its schools use traditional desktop systems in computer labs to, instead, issuing Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and iPods for students to use in the classrooms. PGCPS has also seen an influx in personal mobile devices or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), with staff and teachers, in particular, wanting to use their smartphones and tablets on campus and in administrative buildings. Simultaneously, the district has moved from paper-based to electronic communications and has sought to reduce costs and improve efficiencies by using mobile devices for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) related tasks, safety and security applications and even in its maintenance department for work orders. With this new focus on mobility district-wide, PGCPS sought a new network infrastructure that was capable of handling its new and growing requirements.

PGCPS turned to Aruba to provide the wireless and wired infrastructure the district needed to accommodate both current and future mobility needs. With the assistance of partner and integrator, Lanier Electronics Group, Inc., the district is deploying a combination of 200+ Aruba Mobility Controllers, more than 15,000 access points, Aruba Mobility Access Switches, including power-over-Ethernet (PoE) switches for the district’s voice over IP (voIP) implementation, the AirWave Network Management System and ClearPass Access Management System with Aruba AirGroup for managing Apple services and Bonjour traffic.

BYOD, in particular, is an important area of growth for the district. According to Wesley Watts Jr., Chief Information Officer, Prince George’s County Public Schools, the district already enables teachers and staff to connect their personal, mobile devices to the network, but will be looking to formalize its BYOD initiative for both district employees and students once Aruba’s ClearPass is in place. “BYOD is one of the key reasons we selected the ClearPass solution,” he added.

Continued Watts, “Mobility has become critically important to our school district. Whether in the classroom to support learning tools, in our administration building to facilitate teacher and staff communications or for use with ERP applications like purchase requisitions and timecard submissions, the network is mission-critical to the efficient and cost-effective operation of our district.”

Watts noted that the new Aruba network is enabling the district to better utilize the 16,000 iPads they’ve rolled out for classroom use. Teachers and staff who were used to printing from their older computing devices ran into obstacles when trying to print from the iPads. In addition, the district wanted teachers to be able to use the iPads in conjunction with Apple TVs to project their screens in the classroom. By deploying Aruba ClearPass and, specifically, its AirGroup capabilities, the district has found a solution that will allow teachers and staff to use the iPads, print from them and project their screens in the classroom. AirGroup automatically identifies users and groups, based on their roles, devices and/or locations, to ensure that each user can access the specific printer, projector or TV needed without paging through extensive lists. Once ClearPass and AirGroup are in place, the district plans to put 200-300 Apple TVs into its classrooms. PGCPS is also in the midst of several pilot deployments using a variety of laptops and tablets, including Google Chromebooks and Amplify tablets, and is evaluating 1:1 initiatives in its middle schools and high schools. All of these devices, powered by the Aruba network, will be used to deliver new voice, video and virtual desktop applications in the classrooms.

The Aruba network is also enabling PGCPS to adopt new applications and programs. A family portal application, developed by the district, allows parents, students, teachers and administrators to check students’ schedules, grades and attendance via mobile devices, as well as traditional computing systems. School administrators can use their mobile devices to perform evaluations and spot checks, as they walk through school hallways and into classrooms. In addition, the district is using the network for online PARCC (Partnership of Readiness for College and Careers) testing that is compliant with the new Common Core curriculum. The district expects nearly 85,000 students will be taking multiple assessments online every year once PARCC is fully implemented.

The new network is also critical to enabling one of PGCPS’ unique programs which allows its high school students to take a series of trade classes and obtain technology certifications in areas like systems engineering and programming. The district maintains three technology distribution centers for its own networking and computing equipment, co-located with the high schools, so students can have hands-on experience in the centers with diagnosing, troubleshooting and repairing equipment. The program has been a huge success for the district with the 391 students enrolled this school year expected to earn nearly 200 different certifications. For PGCPS, the ultimate goal of the program is to give these students added skills that will make them more competitive whether they choose to attend college or go directly into the workforce.