Thompson High looking to get schoolwide Wi-Fi

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Staff members in the Thompson High School media center are looking to raise about $12,000 to install and maintain a schoolwide wireless Internet system to help the school provide more offerings for its students.

THS Library Media Specialist Greg Stone said THS, Vincent High School and Shelby County High School are the only three high schools in Shelby County without schoolwide wireless Internet.

Stone said the high schools in Shelby County with schoolwide wireless Internet purchased the equipment themselves using money generated from fundraisers and community support.

“The burden of purchasing schoolwide wireless has been the responsibility of the school and the community,” Stone told the Alabaster City Council during a Sept. 4 meeting, noting funds provided by the Shelby County School System do not cover wireless Internet-related expenses.

Stone called wireless Internet the “next step in the future” for the school, much like personal computers were 15 years ago.

If installed, schoolwide wireless Internet would allow students to bring their own devices, such as smartphones or iPads, to school to use in the classroom, Stone said.

Currently, teachers are required to use “laptop carts” to provide wireless Internet access in their classrooms. The carts plug into a network jack in the classroom and offer limited-range wireless access, and takes up instructional time by causing teachers to set up and manage the laptop cart, Stone said.

Stone said schoolwide wireless Internet would allow students and faculty members to use Internet-capable devices without worrying about wandering out of range of the laptop carts.

THS officials said it would cost about $12,000 to purchase and power the wireless Internet equipment. Last year, the school hosted a dance, which raised more than $1,800 for the project.

“(THS Principal) Dr. (Daniel) Steele said he would run in the Mercedes Marathon to raise money to buy a class set of iPads,” Stone said. “We will probably have another school dance this year, and we are talking to businesses to see if they would like to donate.”

Stone also said the school has asked the City Council to donate to the project, and said he was “very encouraged” after presenting the idea to the council.