Guthrie Public Schools has had to make decisions about in-person or remote learning during the pandemic, as all schools have. Fortunately, the school was able to continue with face-to-face instruction throughout the fall semester.
School leadership implemented a number of changes to operations, including routing students in the buildings to minimize contact during passing periods, increasing the number of lunch periods to have fewer students in the lunch room and ensuring students adhere to seating charts on buses, in classrooms and at lunch. The school also revised sanitizing protocols and maximized air flow in buildings.
“By following CDC guidelines and quarantining those exposed to COVID-19, we have been able to keep the doors open,” said Dee Benson, director of technology for Guthrie Public Schools.
While the school has been fortunate to continue brick-and-mortar teaching, leadership is also prepared for remote learning, in case the school has to close.
“In the event a class must quarantine or a building must close, we have contingencies in place to allow a much more effective distance learning opportunity than what was available last spring” said Superintendent Dr. Mike Simpson.
The school is providing professional development to help teachers deliver effective remote instruction. Teachers also work with students one day a week to improve students’ capabilities in using online learning platforms.
During the fall enrollment process, the school collected data on students’ access to computing devices and internet connectivity to determine needs for assistance. The districted ordered Chromebooks for eligible students needing a computing device.
The district also received two technology grants. One provided internet broadcast points for school buildings, so students have access to Wi-Fi in the areas around the buildings. The second grant, awarded through the Oklahoma State Department of Education, provided 300 mobile internet devices for eligible students who lack internet access. The district is covering the cost of internet connectivity for these devices, and OneNet is providing content filtering.
While the school is prepared for remote learning, it is also expanding technology within the classrooms and across the district. The technology department has built Chromebook carts, so teachers have enough devices for students to use in classrooms.
According to Benson, the school is hosting most applications in the cloud, so a robust infrastructure that allows for the additional required bandwidth is vital. The technology team has upgraded core switches and bandwidth throughout the district.
However, there are challenges to in deploying new technologies.
“Our biggest challenge is funding,” said Benson. “There is never enough money to do what we want to do. We focus on our core and work our way to the edges as funding allows.”
Benson hopes to deploy a 10Gbps backbone throughout the district. This will allow the school to focus on student devices and upgrading the wireless system through federal E-Rate funding.
Guthrie Public Schools serves nearly 3,500 students. The City of Guthrie is as the county seat for Logan County, Oklahoma, and has a population just over 10,000. The city is known for its historic architecture. More than 200 buildings make up the city’s historic district, which is designated as a National Historic Landmark.
The school also has a long history with OneNet. OneNet provided a 10Mbps connection for the school from 1999 to 2006. After utilizing another provider for several years, the school returned to OneNet in 2017 with a 1Gbps connection. The technology department upgraded the connection to 3Gbps in 2020, which has been dually important.
“We have been able to increase our bandwidth and support both in-person and virtual learning simultaneously,” said Benson.
The school chose OneNet as its internet service provider for a number of reasons that go beyond just the high-speed connection.
“OneNet is more than a service provider. They are a partner in education,” said Benson. “Our uptime with OneNet has been great, and the support is the best in the business.”
Without the connection to OneNet, Benson said the school would need to spend thousands of dollars for hardware to host all of the applications the school uses on a daily basis to enhance student learning activities. OneNet’s high-speed connectivity allows the school to keep these applications in the cloud.
“OneNet is proud that Guthrie Public Schools views our team as a partner in their educational initiatives,” said Vonley Royal, OneNet executive director. “As part of our mission to advance technology across our state, we want to make it possible for schools to have the technology they need to teach effectively throughout the pandemic and beyond.”
Benson appreciates OneNet’s dedication to K-12 schools.
“Von and the staff at OneNet are awesome. They are willing to work with us and do what is necessary to help us achieve our goals,” he said.