Coeur d’Alene School District 271 Puts Safety and Security First Through Fatbeam Fiber Network

The Coeur d’Alene School District, which currently enrolls around 11,000 students, is the 6th largest school district in the State of Idaho. With 24 sites covering 29 square miles, the Coeur d’Alene School District has the important task of keeping staff, faculty, and students connected throughout the school year. To keep this many people connected over that many miles, it takes a large and robust network that can handle the kind of bandwidth needs they require.

If you have lived in North Idaho for long, you probably noticed the increased population growth over the past 20 years. Since 1990, the city of Coeur d’Alene’s population has more than doubled. As the population has grown, so have the needs of the school district. In 2011 the district decided they needed to make some IT changes in order to accommodate the increased number of students coming to their schools and the increased use of technology. This is the year the district decided to upgrade their communication networks and through the E-Rate program, contracted with Fatbeam to build out their fiber network.

Scalability is Key

Technology has been booming in the classroom in recent years. “We went from 3 students per device in 2014 and are now at one student per device,” says the District’s Director of Technology, Seth Deniston, “all of that increases the demand of technology. When you have so many devices there can be headaches if you don’t have the infrastructure.”

Because of this increased use, a more robust network has been a necessity for the school district. Fatbeam has been working to increase WAN services and bandwidth. Deniston continues, “demand for technology and online services have increased every year. Everything from HR to payroll to phone systems to our Math curriculum is depending on our network. It is hugely important that the network is reliable and have minimal interruptions to those services.”

Safety and Security are Everything

As the district grows, so do potential problems, especially in today’s world. Safety and security are paramount when it comes to our communities’ children. Back in December of 2018 Columbia Falls School District, in Montana, had a cybersecurity incident which shut down its 25 schools for three days, leaving 1600 students, staff, and the local police and sheriff’s department in limbo. This same scenario could happen to any school district, which is why Deniston and his team have taken measures to make sure this doesn’t happen in Coeur d’Alene.

“We have focused on safety and security more in recent years. It is increasingly at the forefront of what we are doing. Much of our security equipment relies on a robust network. A focus on cybersecurity has been a big deal over the years protecting student data and our over one thousand staff members. Educating them on cybersecurity has been a big deal too,” says Deniston.

This is something that Fatbeam is increasingly concerned about and never wants to see happen to any of their school district customers. Therefore, Fatbeam has put a secure point-to-point network in place, virtually eliminating outside threats from infiltrating our network.

Looking Forward

The CDA School District is currently in the process of building another elementary school on Ramsey and Prairie, which will open the Fall of 2020. “We are probably going to need another middle school and elementary school as well. Some of that will be a long process, but it doesn’t seem like the growth will be stopping anytime soon,” says Deniston.

It’s true that the growth in the area doesn’t seem like it is slowing down any time soon. The Inlander published a piece about the area’s growth in January of 2018 and says that, “the city of Coeur d’Alene, currently with a population of about 51,000, is projected to reach 81,000 people by 2035, Anderson says. Post Falls, nearer to the Washington border, is growing even faster and at this rate would surpass Coeur d’Alene’s population sometime between 2025 and 2027.” So far, they seem to be spot on with their assumptions.

The school district is destined for tremendous growth, and with the growth will come more infrastructure that will need to be established. The question standing is, why is a robust fiber-optic network necessary for schools? Deniston weighed in, “it goes back to speed and reliability. From my standpoint and from my position, I don’t think you can underemphasize the importance of reliability of broadband services. Anytime we have outages that is a big deal, and Fatbeam understands that they are working with a school system, understands outages, and takes them seriously. If the internet goes down, it’s like running out of air. People can’t do their jobs without it. It is mission critical at this point. With Fatbeam’s internet, we have seen a huge reduction in costs and a huge increase in bandwidth, by 10 times or more.”

Fatbeam is committed to serving school districts around the west coast and is especially proud to provide network infrastructure and internet services to the Coeur d’Alene School District. As the year’s pass and this area grows, it is clear that the Coeur d’Alene School District’s students are in safe, secure, and reliable hands.