Little Falls Schools in need of technology upgrade; Board votes to move forward

By Tina Snell, Staff Writer

The Little Falls School Board unanimously gave support to Technology Director Mark Diehl Monday night when he spoke about upgrading the technology infrastructure in the district.

“It’s been five years since the district put in new servers and it’s time to replace them,” said Diehl. “There are about 4,000 devices on the current network that include iPads, phones, computers, copiers and more. They need to be connected to talk to each other.”

He said the equipment is wearing out and is ready to be retired.

Diehl proposed a two-part project. First is an infrastructure upgrade. The district would go from two racks of servers to one, offering a better performance with less equipment.

He would like to see high speed, using single mode fiber, available at all the schools, the Community Education Center and Community Services, instead of the multi-mode fiber currently in place.

The cost of an infrastructure upgrade would come to approximately $383,289. Needed would be switches ($236,757), wireless controllers ($40,940), Smart Net ($45,517), fiber ($50,275) and labor ($9,800).

“The district did not add wireless controllers five years ago because of the daunting price then,” said Diehl. “Today, we are being offered 70 percent off with better management of servers and the Internet.”

Currently, all the servers are at the high school with one at the middle school.

The second is to replace the data servers.

“I would like to see wire closets placed around the district, at least every 300 feet, to ensure data travels to where it’s supposed to go and that all devices talk to each other,” he said.

Diehl said the traffic (data) would flow from those closets out to the various devices. It would be set up so if one closet goes down, it won’t affect the others.

The cost for the data center upgrades would come to about $271,295. Changes would include the servers ($76,230), storage ($64,793), software ($63,828), phone migration ($58,444) and labor $8,000.

Diehl estimated the total cost of the proposed project at about $654,500. The district is able to get 0 percent interest for five years and would pay $130,000 per year for the five years, beginning in July.

“The current lease expires in June, saving the school $75,000 per year. The district’s phone lease and Internet services will be paid off this year, another savings of about $45,000,” said Diehl, who expects a new Internet contract will cost considerably less. “I am asking for another $10,000 a year for five years to cover the difference.”

All installations should be complete and operational by the start of the 2013-14 school year.

The lease has a $1 buyout at the end of those five years. When the lease expires, the district owns the equipment.

Little Falls School Board briefs 

Other business conducted by the Little Falls School Board Monday night included:

• Voting to revise the 2013-14 school calendar to include recommendations for making up snow days. The first snow day would be made up by staff only May 30, 2014, and May 29, 2014, would then become a district-wide staff development day. The second snow day make-up time would be President’s Day, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, if the snow day occurred before Feb. 13, 2014. The third snow day, would be scheduled for Monday, March 24, 2014, which is now scheduled as an in-service day for teachers.

Supt. Stephen Jones said the only way the district would extend the 2013-14 school year into June would be if it suffered through four or more snow days or experienced additional snow days after March 24, 2014;

• Approving the proposed 2013-14 operating capital projects. They include $60,966 in expenditures for buildings and grounds, music equipment, technology, family and consumer sciences and career technical education; $30,000 for high school expenditures; $12,000 for the athletics department; $318,000 for technology lease payments; $10,000 to replace a copier at Dr. S.G. Knight Elementary School and $28,500 to replace lockers at the middle school;

• Voting to petition the city of Little Falls to rezone the school district’s complex, which includes the high school, the middle school and Lindbergh Elementary School, from a Residential-3 zone to a Business-3 zone which would then allow electronic signs on the property;

• Hearing information from adviser Rhonda Schmidt on a proposed June 2014 trip to Argentina for International Club students; and

• Scheduling the 2013 retiree reception for Monday, May 20, at the Morrison County Government Center.

The next School Board meeting will be held at the Morrison County Government Center Monday, May 6, beginning at 5 p.m.