Obsolete computer cabling and network switches installed at Clarke County High School are limiting Internet and network bandwidth access for students and preventing technology contractors from attaching new cabling to the existing network. Cost to fix the problem could potentially reach $100,000.
After identifying problems with the existing cabling, much of it installed by staff and students, CCPS Technology Director David Baggett solicited bids from three network contractors to re-cable the school system. During the cost estimation process one contractor noticed cabling at Clarke County High School the contractor believed did not meet the existing building code. If the previous cabling work in fact does violate building codes, the cost to have the cabling professionally replaced may well reach $100,000, according to Baggett.
The large price tag may yet turn out to be nothing more than a worst case scenario. Clarke County Building Inspector, Gary Pope says that even though the Building Department has not yet been contacted, computer cabling is not normally a building code related issue because low voltage signal cabling is not covered under current Clarke County building codes. Baggett hopes to check with the Building Department this week to get additional information about building code requirements in the event that CCPS staff elects to replace some of the cabling without outside help. While Baggett’s preference is for professional contractors to do the work, school budget limitations may force CCPS to once again tackle installation with its own staff.
Clarke County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy said that the problem was discovered about three months ago and is part of the larger challenge of maintaining the school system’s technology infrastructure. Murphy cited the cabling issue as stemming from quickly changing standards and lack of funding for the best solutions possible at the time. Dr. Murphy said that the problem was inadvertently caused by staff members attempting to do the “best they could do with what they had to work with.” None of the staff members responsible for the problem are still employed by the school system. Dr. Murphy brought the cabling matter to the attention of Clarke County School Board Chairperson Robina Bouffault on January 4th at the Board’s first meeting of 2010.
Baggett’s technical leadership has allowed CCPS to install a high speed network backbone between school buildings, yet slow network line speeds within CCHS and other buildings are causing data bottlenecks that absorb valuable class time and contribute to an overall level of frustration for students and staff. Internet resources play an increasingly important role in all levels of educational instruction nationwide. Although all Clarke County school buildings have cabling challenges the most immediate problem is in the High School.
Because of the additional drain on the school system’s already thin capital budget Dr. Murphy said that there is no immediate plan to fix the problem. Instead, the school system will work around the problem, as needed, and address the issue as part of the future remodeling effort. Whether students will be satisfied with tying the solution to the school construction schedule is unclear given ever increasing expectations for more bandwidth. Cisco Systems, the San Jose-based company that leads world sales of networking technology predicts, “In 2012, video traffic alone will be 400 times the traffic carried by the U.S. Internet backbone in 2000.”