October 1, 2008 – The School Connectivity Initiative has made great strides in 2008. In the short session of the NC General Assembly, legislators approved an expansion of the project that provided an additional $10 million dollars for the project, bringing the total project to $22 million dollars annually.
This additional support has enabled many of the recommendations of the BETA Commission report to be implemented. DPI is currently in the process of staffing the E-Rate service center that will assist school districts maximize opportunities for funding through the program. This team will also manage the allocation process to LEAs to be reimbursed for their remaining WAN and ISP costs. Many districts have begun to upgrade their WANs to provide equity of access to all schools as a result of this funding.
MCNC is currently in the process of connecting all 115 school districts in the state to the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) backbone. As of mid-September 107 districts were either connected or in the process of being connected. MCNC has built a toolset that provides each school district access to reporting and monitoring to help them assess the ongoing health of their networks.
In 2009, we expect to see great utilization of the network. As LEAs are connected to the NCREN backbone, services such as the NC Virtual Public School and NCWISE are immediately more accessible and reliable. We expect to see higher enrollments in NCVPS and Learn and Earn Online courses as this new connection provides additional capacity for teaching and learning. Other possibilities, such as virtual computing and digital media resources will be leveraged across the network as well. The Friday Institute will continue to provide an ongoing advising role, and the evaluation group at the institute will be looking into the long term impacts of this project.