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Ripon schools told of need to upgrade computer network
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RIPON - The 10 to 12-year-old network that connects all of Ripon Unified School District’s computer operations was described as being obsolete this week by Jerry Springer, director of Internet Technology for the San Joaquin County Office of Education.

Springer told school trustees that Ripon is the only district in the county – with the exception of New Hope and its 150 students – that does not employ an internet technician to keep its computers operating properly.  The county schools send one of their computer technicians to the district on a one day a week basis, but that is not enough to stay operational, he said.

He explained that the lack of technical support on site delays installation of computers and software extends the amount of time before computers and network issues are addressed, and generally increases the amount of time computers are functioning for students, teachers and staff.

As an example he pointed to the 30-computer lab operation at Colony Oak Elementary School.  He explained that the lab had been put together with donated equipment and little uniformity within that lab operation – a cost-saving setup in the beginning.

Springer said when he visited the school he witnessed 30 students all attempting to get on line to work on a school project – a connection that is far below what is needed for the school,  let alone for the entire district.

During his observation of the Colony Oak class, he said the teacher was busy fixing several computers and printer problems for students with little time left to teach his computer class.

He added that school sites are connected to the district office with the use of T1 lines with speeds of 1.5 MB.  An average internet connection in any given home exceeds that band width by 200 to 400 per cent.  In the home there are usually only one to two computers to support, he said.

Ripon’s network is further impacted by the amount of attempted usage within the district, he noted.

“The frustration of slow response or the inability to use certain functions of the internet, such as video, impedes the speed at which students can learn and teachers are able to deliver content,” he said.

Springer further noted that the remote support levels from the County Office of Education are degraded because of the overload on the network.  He said that any additional computers added in the district will only create “increased degradation” of the network.

There are two areas that need to be addressed, Springer said, if the network issue is to be improved.  Communication lines from the school sites to the district office and from the district office to the County Office of Education must be upgraded.

The school district is currently eyeing one proposal to upgrade its computer network operation.  A similar upgrade proposed in 2006 held a price tag that neared $300,000.