Boise schools opt in to Luna Wi-Fi program

Some Treasure Valley districts say the opportunity expands their technology and saves money for other uses.

broberts@idahostatesman.comAugust 3, 2013 

Boise School District, which bristled at state schools chief Tom Luna’s proposal in 2011 to give every high school kid a laptop, has signed onto his statewide program to pay to install wireless equipment in high schools and junior highs.

Boise is among 114 schools districts and charter schools to take up Luna’s offer for wireless access under a contract for which he has been criticized by lawmakers and others.

“At its core, this is an infrastructure project, not a device project,” said Don Coberly, Boise superintendent. “We believe that it’s much more appropriate for the state to help us build a highway than to tell us what kind of cars we need to buy.”

Of eligible districts and charter schools, 83 percent have opted in to the statewide contract, Education Department officials said. That covers 203 schools and 90,000 students. Cost per school will be about $10,344.

Approximately 60 percent of the original 333 schools listed in the request for bids are signed up. But state officials say the number included middle schools that will not be eligible. The total number of schools that could receive assistance is about 249, said Melissa McGrath, department spokesman. That number could change as new schools are built.

Schools should be connected by March.

Other participating Treasure Valley districts include Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Kuna and Middleton.

The response for state help with wireless installation shows “it is clear schools are eager for this connectivity so they can provide teachers with the tools and resources necessary to meet the needs of every student,” said Luna.

Luna was criticized by lawmakers and others for his handling of the contract, which opponents said went to a company that had political ties to the superintendent.

State Sen. Dean Cameron, co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee, complained Luna used $2.5 million in one-time money appropriated by lawmakers to sign a multiyear contract of up to 15 years with Education Networks of America. Cameron said he wants a resolution to the contract dispute and won’t rule out seeking to defund the program when lawmakers meet in January.

Minidoka County School District, which is in Cameron’s legislative district, has opted in to the state-funded wireless installation.

Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service