Small district makes big wireless change

Amherst School District in New Hampshire made the decision to upgrade its ad hoc wireless network after complaints from users about frequent dead spots, as well as concerns from school board members about security issues.
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Amherst School District in New Hampshire has deployed a new wireless network to serve the entire district, which includes five schools – a middle school, high school, and three elementary schools – and several buildings. Amherst made the decision to upgrade its ad hoc wireless network after complaints from users about frequent dead spots, as well as concerns from school board members about security issues.

"Time is a huge commodity in a school. Our teachers have very little time with their students and every minute they need to wait for access or are unable to get coverage is time lost teaching," said Jason Lozzi, network and system administrator for Amherst School District. Lozzi added that the new service provider, Enterasys Wireless, has implemented "a very user friendly network with better coverage, reliable access and the capacity to handle more users in a small area."

The school district uses portable laptop carts that roll from classroom to classroom. In the past, teachers had reservations about using these "portable classrooms" because of the spotty wireless coverage. With the improved signal strength and stronger network connection, teachers can take full advantage of the mobile laptops in the classrooms. Additionally, the district can now allow a public wireless area where students can bring in their own devices and connect on their own – something they couldn't offer previously because of security concerns and weak coverage.

With only five technicians serving Amherst's 500 faculty members and 3,300 students, time is also a valuable resource for the district IT department. The new wireless network provides more comprehensive and reliable network coverage, along with an intuitive management platform, allowing Lozzi and his staff the flexibility to manage access points throughout the various schools easily. The technology enables them to focus their attention on other key initiatives, while still ensuring student confidentiality and data integrity.

When the district made the decision to upgrade their network to include more widespread wireless coverage, Amherst ultimately went with Enterasys because of its technology capabilities, customer service and support, and expertise in the K-12 education market. "My sales rep is excellent and the team there is top notch," said Lozzi. "I know if I pick up the phone I can speak with them directly. There are other vendors out there, but with Enterasys I have a true partner who is as committed to my success as l am."

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