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Report: LA Schools' wifi networks may not be ready for tests

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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As the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District considers a request by Superintendent John Deasy to buy 67,500 more iPads so students can take new digital state tests in the spring, a committee found that even if the fleet of testing tablets is purchased, most schools wifi networks may not be ready.

Documents released by the district Monday show only 208 of the district's 800 schools have the network capacity to support every student and teacher having an iPad. By the time testing begins in April, 59 more school sites will be fully wifi ready.

The other schools will have to wait – but because students can cycle through testing, some may be able to get by on limited existing networks. Some elementary schools need only a handful of computers online on any given testing hour; other schools will need to support as many as 441 computers to test thousands of students.

“This is another piece of the puzzle that they didn’t think through," said Stuart Magruder, a member of the Bond Oversight Committee, which oversees the pool of money paying for the iPads and corresponding wifi upgrades.

Magruder was part of the minority that voted last fall to halt the expansion of the iPad program, which has stagnated at a total of 31,000 devices since the beginning of the school year. 

Deasy had originally planned to buy an iPad for all 651,322 students by this time. Inadequate wifi networks are only the latest stumbling block.

The total budget for scheduled wifi upgrades to 467 campuses is $342 million. Construction will go on another year, and upgrades at 227 sites have yet to be scheduled.

The Common Core Technology Project Committee, chaired by Board of Education member Monica Ratliff, meets Tuesday to discuss implications. The full school board is scheduled to vote January 14 on whether to buy the second round of iPads.