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Some Washington County schools to get Internet upgrade

June 19, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Internet connections at nine of Washington County Public Schools’ elementary schools, including a few in rural settings, will be upgraded to high-speed this summer, the school system’s director of information management and instructional technology said Thursday.

Currently, those schools are using a Verizon T1 line that provides 3MB service, compared with 1GB of capacity they will get with the upgrade, according to Arnold Hammann.

The schools use the Internet connection, which comes through a hub at the central office off Commonwealth Avenue in Hagerstown, to access resources for classes, Hammann said.

The schools getting the upgrade are Conococheague, Funkstown, Greenbrier, Hickory, Lincolnshire, Old Forge, Paramount, Pleasant Valley and Potomac Heights.

The Washington County Board of Education approved the contract for the work, as part of the consent agenda, with a unanimous vote at its June 7 meeting.

Antietam Cable Television was awarded the project for a total cost in fiscal year 2011-12 of $143,795, according to presentation documents. That includes a one-time installation cost of $103,835 and $39,960, charged annually, for synchronous service.

The recurring fee for the synchronous service is based on signing a five-year contract, according to presentation documents.

Antietam Cable and school system officials are drafting a contract that includes a clause referring to the continued use of Antietam’s services contingent upon the school board approving funds in future fiscal years, according to presentation documents. The contract still needs to be approved by the school board.

Antietam Cable is owned by Schurz Communications Inc., which also owns The Herald-Mail Co.

Purchasing Supervisor Lisa Freeman told the school board that few companies were interested in providing these services, due largely to the initial cost of installing the delivery system.

Verizon and Frontier Communications were contacted about the project, but Frontier would only go to one of the schools and Verizon wouldn’t go to all of the schools either, Hammann said Thursday.

Conococheague, Old Forge, Greenbrier and Pleasant Valley are in rural settings. The most expensive connection will be to Old Forge, which is between Hagerstown and Smithsburg, with a cost of $24,923, according to presentation documents.

The work, to be done this summer, will involve cable lines on utility poles and some underground work to get the service into the school buildings, Hammann said.

With this project approved, that leaves only the Hancock schools to get upgraded Internet connections, Hammann said. The school system has a grant for that project and is expecting the Maryland Board of Public Works to approve project permits in July, he said.

Hancock Elementary and Hancock Middle-Senior now get Internet access through a wireless microwave system. Their upgrade involves the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, as fiber-optic lines will be plowed underground along the rails-to-trails path, Hammann said. That work is expected to be done this summer. The paths will remain open, since the work is expected to cause minimal disruption, he said.

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