School board briefed on upcoming Cheney technology needs


When it comes to technology, the Cheney School District is in pretty good shape overall, a couple pressing needs not withstanding.

One of those is the high school, which Information Services Department Director Cliff Smelser told the board at its May 14 meeting is “a sore spot” in the district. While the main infrastructure is OK, parts of the high school are lacking sufficient cabling upgrade to meet today’s technology needs for speed and data transfer capabilities.

The district will also begin looking at implementing a five-year computer rotation plan to replace desktop and laptop computers. Because of changes in technology and regular upgrades, Smelser said computers are typically useable for about 7-10 years from the time they were installed.

Voters passed a special levy in March 2008 that provided funding for replacement technology, including computers, some of which are now closing in on being obsolete for educational purposes. The proposed schedule would replace 1,400 desktop and 340 laptop computers, beginning in the 2014-15 school year, at a total cost of $1,356,000.

The biggest impact would be through 2016-2018 when 800 desktop computers would be replaced at a cost of $600,000, while most of the laptops — 200 — would be replaced in 2018-19 at a cost of $180,000. The later replacements would include computers purchased for both middle schools and Snowdon Elementary School, which opened in 2012 and 2013 respectively. The district has 2,645 computers overall.

Another area of need is the district’s phone system, which Smelser said is a “hybrid.” The system has been upgraded several times over the years, but is at a point where the district will need to consider whether costs to build on the existing system might outweigh moving to a more modern one.

“The district phone system is basically up to date and not up to date at the same time,” Smelser said.

The district has made a number of moves to improve its overall network, such as installing wireless coverage and quality fiber cabling between rooms and moving to a “virtual server environment.” That enabled removing servers from individual buildings and centralizing the network, helping create better sharing of resources and a more redundant system.

The district has also been upgrading its external connections with the Washington state system. Smelser said where four years ago the district had a 30-megabyte bandwidth it now has 100 megs and will be moving to 200 megs this summer.

“We’re set for the future in that unless something big happens,” he said.

The school district’s technology department operates on a $730,000 budget, of which $163,000 goes to salaries for its six employees.

John McCallum can be reached at


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