Cd'A schools buy local

Post Falls company to provide district with Wi-Fi service

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COEUR d'ALENE - The Coeur d'Alene School District, one of the largest in Idaho, won't be opting-in to the statewide Wi-Fi contract signed last week by Idaho public schools chief Tom Luna.

The state's five-year, $2.1 million contract, with options to renew for up to 15 years, was awarded to Nashville-based Education Networks of America.

Wendell Wardell, the Coeur d'Alene district's chief operating officer, told The Press that when the board meets next week, the district's administration will recommend that the trustees award a $278,000 wireless bid to a local contractor, Ednetics, based in Post Falls.

"It's more robust than what the state's got. It's got bigger antennas, more capacity," Wardell said.

The funding for the district's wireless network will come from local tax dollars through the $32.7 million construction bond approved by voters a year ago. The bid covers wireless infrastructure and service in all district schools.

"We want our service to be based locally," Wardell said.

Because they knew the state was working on a wireless plan, Wardell said he broke out the cost under the Ednetics bid, to complete the work on three district high schools. The $5,666 cost per school is significantly less than the $23,000 per school that the state's contract could cost.

Wardell said the district expects to have to pay for service if they sign on with the state.

"We wanted to give the state's plan a chance, but honestly, we want to move forward," Wardell said.

Ednetics is expected to have the district's Wi-Fi up and running by November. Under the state's plan, all high schools aren't expected to be online until March.

The local proposal is attractive for other reasons.

The district will own its wireless network and equipment, while under the state plan, Education Networks of America will retain ownership of the equipment.

Wardell said they also want to steer clear of controversy surrounding the state plan.

Legislators have been critical of Luna and the Wi-Fi contract because it potentially provides funding of up to $33 million to an outside vendor, without prior legislative approval.

Other critics are questioning the state education department's bid process, indicating that ENA's proposal earned favor because the company has political ties to Luna.

Tom Taggart, business director for the Lakeland School District, said they have not made a final decision yet whether to sign on to the state's wireless plan.

"At this time all Lakeland schools have wireless access and we want to make sure we don't put ourselves in a position where we are not in control of our technology," Taggart said. "I understand the advantages to many districts of having a managed system, but we have already invested in equipment that works with our network. We are keeping an open mind, but also want to do what is best for the district over the long run."

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