Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ business committee is recommending 2021-22 surplus money be allocated for such items as Wi-Fi upgrades at schools. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ business committee is recommending 2021-22 surplus money be allocated for such items as Wi-Fi upgrades at schools. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district to spend surplus dollars on Wi-Fi upgrades, solar panels

$4.7 million in surplus means SD68 can spend on a list of projects and initiatives

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district will designate half a million dollars to complete work for wireless internet upgrades at another 20 schools.

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools discussed how to spend $4.7 million in surplus at a Sept. 15 business committee meeting and recommended that $500,000 go to the equitable access to technology program, as many schools “currently lack the infrastructure to support fulsome technology access,” according to a staff report.

At the meeting, Mark Walsh, secretary-treasurer, said the district has two areas of technology that it supports – devices in schools and upgrading Wi-Fi and internet connections “to handle modern devices and lots of use of them.”

He said the school district’s facilities workers, including electricians, would be able to do the work in house.

“We have sped up this program and we are expending a lot of what we have on hand,” Walsh said. “With this $500,000, in addition to $500,000 [discussed earlier in September], we will be $200,000 away from completing an almost $5-million project. That means every single school will be complete.”

In an e-mail, the district said wiring at some schools is more than 25 years old and “new high-performance network cabling” and “the latest high-speed, high-capacity wire and wireless networking technologies” are being installed.

Upgrades to 10 schools, including all district high schools have been completed. Four schools are currently receiving upgrades, while the remaining 22 are anticipated to be completed by 2023.

As well, the district will also set aside $300,000 for solar panels at the Island Connect Education distance learning facility. Mary Zuccaro, district energy manager, said the site was chosen as solar analysis showed the complex “gets the most sunlight in Nanaimo.”

RELATED: SD68 to spend $544K on HVAC at Cedar Secondary

Walsh said the district could stand to benefit and would like to “try and see the payback on this.” He said an external group approached SD68 and suggested Island Connect-Ed as a potential location for solar panels.

“We certainly have the skill set and the people to make it happen here in the district,” said Walsh. “So, the idea is, we get the electricity for [Island Connect-Ed] and whatever [it] is not using we flow back into the grid and we’ll pay ourselves back this money, frankly, through operational savings, which will be spent on learning.”

RELATED: City seeks infrastructure grant for turf field in Harewood

Other notable allocations for surplus dollars include $500,000 toward a City of Nanaimo all-weather sports field at Harewood Centennial Park, $125,000 for improved traffic safety measures at École North Oyster Elementary, $500,000 for professional development and resources related to the district truth and reconciliation policy, and $700,000 for upgrades to lower greenhouse gas emissions at district facilities.

RELATED: 800 laptops, tablets given to central Island Indigenous students

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