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Idaho To Turn All Public High Schools Into WiFi Hotspots

Christy Green

Across the Northwest, students are wrapping up their school year. By the time Idaho high school students return in the fall, their classrooms will be on their way to becoming wireless hotspots. The Idaho Department of Education is preparing to spend more than $2 million to put high-speed wireless Internet in all public high schools.

It's part of what Idaho education officials like to call the “21st Century Classroom.” They're asking for bids over the summer on a contract to have WiFi up and running across the state by March 2014.

Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath says wireless Internet will make it easier to turn the gadgets students are using, like tablets and smartphones, into classroom tools.

“This doesn't mean students use those devices every part of the day," she says. "But teachers are beginning to integrate that type of technology into portions their lesson plans. And it's difficult to integrate technology such as a tablet, if students aren't able to get online from that mobile device.”

Two years ago, the Idaho legislature went so far as to require that every high school student be given a laptop. But voters rejected that idea last November. The WiFi plan is part of a new $10 million allocation for classroom technology.

Neither Oregon nor Washington has put WiFi in schools as a matter of state policy. But a technology survey of Washington schools this year found nearly all have some WiFi access and two thirds have it school-wide. A spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Education says the majority of Oregon schools have some level of WiFi, even though it is not required statewide.