EDCOE's IT Team Connects EDC Students

by Placerville Newswire / May 08, 2020 / comments

[Dina Gentry. EDCOE Transportation driver, Tami Cannon, and dispatcher, Janette Hartman, take one of the EDCOE WOW vans to LogTown Country Market in El Dorado where families could park and access the EDC-STUDENT wireless internet network to obtain distance learning materials]

The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped classroom instruction to distance learning in El Dorado County. Although school facilities are closed through the end of the school year, instruction remains so students may continue growing academically. Although the instruction may appear different than this time last year, the need for human interaction and educational development is critical. Teachers maintain regular contact with students and deliver lessons through online platforms and/or take-home packets. El Dorado County households are geographically and socio-economically diverse, so technologic devices and internet connectivity are not immediately equitable across the large rural county. Many households may not be equipped to provide students with online connection to their teachers. 

At the El Dorado County Office of Education (EDCOE), the Information Technology (IT) team has worked countless hours to help bridge this digital gap in many ways for EDCOE programs and school districts. “It has been truly amazing to watch our team tackle these challenges head-on so students and educators may continue to thrive,” David Seabury, Director of Information Technology, noted. “During these school closures, our IT team has innovated and pioneered technological solutions to assist with distance learning challenges such as device availability and internet connectivity.” 

When school facilities first closed and distance learning began, IT team members worked with EDCOE Charter Alternative and Special Services Programs to identify households in need of devices. Once identified, IT reconfigured available devices such as Chromebooks, installed internet filtering safeguards, physically sanitized the hardware, labeled the devices and worked with parents for pick up. They also began to survey the 15 school districts on their device and connectivity needs and worked with county partners and the state to identify areas of opportunity. 

Connectivity was a major area identified as many households do not have access to the internet. To address this, IT has established a county-wide wireless network, called EDC-STUDENT, which is available for families to access the internet and download distance learning materials. The EDC-STUDENT WiFi network is available at 74 locations, including sites at EDCOE, the 15 school districts and El Dorado County Libraries. Connectivity schedules are determined by each site, and school districts will communicate this information directly to families. Multiple locations and a single network name allows families, with children who attend different schools, to access the internet at the most convenient location for their needs. “We collaborated and worked with school districts to build upon their existing infrastructure, establish consistent internet filtering capacity and broaden internet access for all El Dorado County students,” David explained. “We are continuing to work with districts to identify additional needs and troubleshoot challenges. Everyone is asked to practice safe physical-distancing when visiting these parking lots.” 

Some communities lack internet connectivity and transportation as well. Therefore, EDCOE IT and Transportation teams have outfitted vans, previously used to transport students with disabilities, with Cradlepoint devices connected to Verizon powered by mobile solar panels and batteries. This week, these EDCOE WOW (wireless on wheels) vans were piloted and driven to certain areas to provide internet connectivity to students. Mother Lode Union School District (MLUSD) Superintendent Dr. Marcy Guthrie expressed, “The MLUSD appreciates the partnership with EDCOE in service to our community and families. On Monday, May 4th, Mother Lode parent and El Dorado County educator, Cheryl Weidert, accessed the wireless van Wi-Fi and shared with me, “Sitting here right now...I was in Google Meets earlier...it's AMAZING!  I am BEYOND GRATEFUL!  I should have set a timer...less than 5 minutes (probably more like 3) for what took me an hour (at home) earlier today and three hours on Friday!’”

While these innovative projects progress and become stronger, IT has continued to provide direct support for districts and programs. Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services, Kevin Monsma, stated, “This team’s ingenuity and tenacity has facilitated services to support students at every level in El Dorado County. While working as hard as they do, the team has also pioneered back office solutions for electronic signatures, employee candidate testing and more. I want to commend IT and David Seabury for their tremendous efforts.”

For more information regarding EDCOE, visit edcoe.org