Michigan school pilots Ethernet network

The nearly 7,500 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in Michigan's Rockford public schools soon will be using a converged Ethernet network that supports voice, data and video services, as part of a pilot project unveiled Tuesday at Meadow Ridge elementary school.

"For school districts, dealing with technology is like trying to shoot at a moving target," said superintendent of Rockford schools Mike Shibler. "This partnership with 3Com for the converged network system gives us the opportunity to look well into the [technology] future."

The $8.6 million network is based on 3Com Corp.'s CoreBuilder 9000 enterprise switch, which provides scaleable bandwidth and supports the school's phone systems. The converged architecture eventually will enable the network's 8,000 users to deliver live streaming video through high-speed Internet and telephone services via the Ethernet network to 16 schools and administrative buildings that are as far as 12 miles apart.

"We use technology as a tool to enhance teaching and learning...our programs drive technology, technology does not drive our programs," Shibler said "This [system] has the potential to keep us ahead of the game for sometime to come. It provides communication, not only in the classroom, but classroom to home, classrooms within the district and classrooms outside the district."

The system has been fully deployed at Meadow Ridge, which will serve as the pilot for school administrators and 3Com (www.3com.com) staff to work all the bugs out, Shibler said. He added that plans call for the network to be in place at the seven other elementary schools, two middle schools and the high school, within 18 months.

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