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Walker County Board of Education Conquers COVID-19 Challenges with the help of ExtremeCloud IQ

Deidra Peterson Specialist, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 16 Feb 2021

Walker County Board of Education is located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Alabama. Walker County’s district consists of 16 schools and over 7,500 students in grades K-12 with more than 900 employees. Walker County Board of Education’s goal has always been to foster an education environment that provides students the tools they need to be successful in today’s world. The ongoing global pandemic has created an entirely new set of challenges. Admits the pandemic schools all over the globe needed to develop technology-driven learning environments in order to follow health and safety guidelines while still maintain a high-quality educational environment for its students. In order to do just that WCBoE needed a digital transformation that would allow them to adapt fast.

When the pandemic struck, and students were sent home, the challenges began to arise. Many students were left to work off of paper packets because the district only had about 2,500 Chromebooks to give out. The Board of Education has planned to implement in stages, but COVID-19 forced its hand. Luckily, the school district received some Federal funding and the district was able to purchase an additional 5,000 devices which would support the student population before the new school year began. For Patrick Gann, Technology Director for Walker County BoE, and his team of four other IT techs, that included procuring and setting up thousands of new digital devices for students to ensure all students would have access to the same content and experiences

A bigger underlying challenge arose according to Gann, the existing network infrastructure and tools weren’t capable of supporting more than 8,000 students and staff accessing network resources during the course of each school day, along with various other connected devices. Other connected devices such as digital learning devices like Promethean boards, Viewsonic panel displays, and digital learning applications, as well as surveillance systems, printers, HVAC systems, and more.  Along with users in three additional facilities, including the central office, transportation building, and a storage facility. The current Extreme Networks 1 gig switches wouldn’t be able to handle the network load, the district quickly pivoted and developed a plan to upgrade to a next generation infrastructure from Extreme.

Patrick Gann, Technology Director for Walker County BoE explained “The biggest challenge was being able to view everything on the network and making sure all the switches and VLANs were working properly,” said Gann.  “We got good service out of our existing Extreme switches, but they were limited in their speed and bandwidth because they were older.  We needed to prepare to increase our bandwidth.”

Walker County BoE ultimately chose Extreme Networks’ solution due to their technology and exceptional service and support that Gann had always received. WCBoE’s solution consisted of a new Extreme Extended Edge switching solution, including V400 edge switches that were tied into X590 and X465 aggregation switches.  In addition, new Extreme Wi-Fi access points both indoors and outdoors providing coverage to support students in parking lots to increase connectivity options for students. On top of the new WiFi network, Walker County made the switch from a legacy Wi-Fi controller to ExtremeCloud IQ. With the help from ExtremeCloud IQ, Gann’s team, will have full visibility in the network as well as have the ability to block access for specific devices, and more.

As a result of Walker County BoE’s network infrastructure makeover, the school district has been an immense amount of improvement in its network and its ability to supports its net digital learning programs. ExtremeCloud IQ has made a huge impact and has saved everyone time with its monitoring and management capabilities. Gann’s team is able to dedicate their time to helping students and staff with their devices and managing learning software systems. In addition to the implementation itself, Synergetics was helpful in offering services that would be eligible for E-Rate programs. In the end, in terms of Walker County’s mission, they were able to deliver an improved user experience with the ability to more effectively manage those experiences.

Now that Walker County Board of Education is functioning efficiently under its new learning environment thanks to its new Extreme Networks technology, Gann says he is not done working. Gann has plans to assess the environment and determine how they can continue to deliver and give students and teachers an even better experience. Next steps for Gann include replacing old Chromebooks and adding 2,000 new ones. As teachers began to work more with 3D printing, virtual augmented reality, and more digital teaching tools, he is confident the infrastructure in place will be able to take on any new innovative technologies to come.

For more information please take a look Walker County Board of Education’s case study.

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