Tomorrow, East Lansing voters will decide on a school bond issue to upgrade outdated equipment. Officials say hundreds of phones, computers, cameras and clocks in the city’s schools are becoming obsolete. The district is asking residents to approve a millage that would not exceed 1.26 mils over the next five years. The measure would raise more than $5 million for the upgrade.
WKAR’s Kevin Lavery visited East Lansing High School to talk with the district’s director of technology, Christian Palasty, who says there’s a sizable amount of equipment to replace.
CHRISTIAN PALASTY: I think we have 1,200 to 1,500 PC’s and laptops; wireless nodes…a wireless node is an antenna that’s in the ceiling or otherwise placed throughout the school. We don’t have a really good inventory of those devices, but there are many. And when we’re done, we’re actually looking at placing one antenna per classroom, and I believe we have somewhere around 300 classrooms. Phones; somewhere near 400, probably. Lots of equipment.
KEVIN LAVERY: So these pieces of equipment are outliving their usefulness and are being superseded by more current technology?
PALASTY: Yes. In particular, the computers we have in the district; the oldest ones are 10 years of age. So, a laptop that’s 10 years old in the hands of a student is not nearly as productive as one that’s a year old or something less than that. So, we need to replace PC’s so that we can get a little bit more use out of them and have them be more productive and not be in the position that they’re in right now, which is impeding the instruction sometimes.
LAVERY: OK, let’s take a look at what we’re talking about.
PALASTY: All right…we’ll step into the center of this room here which is the center of all the data and most other equipment for the district. This is the server room for the district, so a lot of what we’re talking about replacing starts right here. This is our voice mail system, and it operates on a very old DOS screen as you can see. We’re looking at going to a voice-over IP (VOIP) system which is utilizing our current Ethernet network that we have.
LAVERY: And again, the infrastructure in this room is about how old?
PALASTY: Some of this is 20 years of age, some is 15 to 19, some is 20. The Ethernet equipment, which manages the fixed computer network, so the PC’s in the lab that plug in, they all come back to here…this equipment is 10 years old. It was put in with the last bond. It’s outdated. We would be able to sell this off; there’s still a market for this equipment, and it would go towards the replacement of this equipment.
PALASTY: This is the security room for the high school, and what we have are banks of monitors that show all the camera angles for the cameras that are located throughout the building. And what we want to do is have video surveillance added to all the buildings in the district. We don’t want to be up and down the hallways as we have here. At the elementaries, we think that we would just target main areas like the main entrance, the parking lot, maybe the playground. These are old technology DVR units, or digital video recorders. And if you could look behind this rack, there are miles of cable, and we could replace all of this and update it and go to more of a digital recording system and more centrally manage the surveillance in these buildings.
LAVERY: You have several monitors here, and I’m looking at at least two that have, it looks like 16 very small surveillance screens. If something amiss were to happen on one of these panels, is there something automatic that alerts the people who need to know that there’s something not right happening in a certain part of the building?
PALASTY: No, there’s no way of doing that. If it’s a real-time situation, if they saw it on camera, then that would enable them to take action and we could then tie into the electronic door system if need be and do a lockdown, be able to tie into the PA phone system and issue an alert. If they don’t see it on the cameras, then that’s where we would hope somebody within the building would see it and be able to pick up a phone somewhere and issue an “all call” so that the threat could be taken care of and corralled as best as possible.
LAVERY: You and some other key people in the district, I’m sure, have been taking this message out to the community. What’s the receptivity level like? Is there anyone who’s voicing concerns over the adequacy of this bond or the financing; any visible opposition or concern at this point?
PALASTY: I have not seen any opposition. The community members that have come to the meetings that we’ve been to have been very supportive. They understand the need. We explain to them what this is going to address. We explain that there are no frivolous items here; everything has a very critical need and a placement, and it’s for the safety and security of the students.