TNS — Lee County schools could receive district-wide wireless Internet upgrades this year that would give each classroom its own wireless access point.

Those upgrades are dependent on outside funding, however.

The school district's application for funding from E-rate still awaits approval, but if approved, a strong Wi-Fi network will be installed on each campus.

A federal program from the Federal Communications Commission, E-rate provides money to schools, libraries and others from service charges assessed on telephone bills.

Lee County Schools Technology Director Brian Newton said during Thursday's School Board retreat the Wi-Fi expansion could feasibly be completed this year. The school board voted in January to explore the cost of such an expansion.

With plans made and the bid for the project awarded to Howard Industries, Newton said apart from funding, the district is prepared to begin the expansion.

Howard Industries, a technology company based out of Laurel won the bid to supply and install the wireless access points.

The company gave the district a 40-day timeline on getting the project done once funding is approved.

The district would put a wireless access point in every classroom, allowing for 30-32 devices to be used per classroom.

Additionally, multipurpose buildings will have the wireless capacity for more than 100 devices.

Newton said the E-rate funding will only be used for wireless access points, not for purchasing any devices.

Shannon High School received funding through the Mississippi Department of Education last year because of its priority school status, which allowed for the installation of Wi-Fi access points on its campus.

This led to a bring-your-own-device program at Shannon High, where students are allowed to bring their own technology devices to use with teachers' permission.

The Wi-Fi expansion could eventually allow students district-wide to bring their own devices to school as well.

With the E-rate funding, Newton said Shannon will receive several more access points to increase capacity for wireless devices to be used.

Newton said E-rate is in the process of reviewing funding applications and said from what he understands, E-rate is working toward a quick turnaround.

"They are going through the applications as fast as they can so the districts can get technology implemented," Newton said. 

©2015 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.