Students and staff in School District 69 (Qualicum) will still be able to connect wirelessly in district schools, as the board of education has voted down the concept of a WIFI-free school. (AP Photo)

Students and staff in School District 69 (Qualicum) will still be able to connect wirelessly in district schools, as the board of education has voted down the concept of a WIFI-free school. (AP Photo)

Qualicum district board votes down push to pull the plug on school Wi-Fi service

Presentation made regarding potentially negative effects of wireless radiation

Schools in District 69 (Qualicum) will continue to offer wireless internet connection for students and staff.

The idea of having a Wi-Fi-free school in SD69 first arose at the Sept. 28 board meeting, after a presentation by Frank Clegg, founder of Canadians For Safe Technology. Clegg outlined a series of concerns and studies regarding potentially negative effects of wireless radiation.

At another meeting in late November, superintendent Peter Jory recommended the board reject the concept.

He said that while a Wi-Fi-free school could be achieved and align with the B.C.’s education plan and curriculum, it would take some “ingenuity and thoughtfulness”. He also added that portable devices that can only connect to the internet wirelessly (tablets, smartphones) have been touted as a cornerstone strategy to facilitate student learning wherever students may be.

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“The shift towards a more mobile environment was deemed to be important as a way to get at the new curriculum effectively,” said Jory. “The one thing I want to speak to though is technology as a means of inclusion. In many of our classes we’ve got students that are working with a laptop, tablet, or something like that. And they are just one of the kids in the class. And their challenges are not visible because they are able to lean on this technology in that mobile environment. And that would be extremely challenging if we were to go back to hard-wiring our classes.”

In a briefing note to the school board, Jory stated while hard-wiring may be an alternative to Wi-Fi-free schools, in order to have internet access in every classroom, staff estimated the cost to wire a 10-classroom school with multiple plug-in ethernet connections would range between $50,000 and $70,000. That estimate did not include the cost of millwork or other structural features.

Chair Eve Flynn made a motion, seconded by trustee Laura Godfrey, to reject the concept of a Wi-Fi-free school in the district.

Trustee Julie Austin voted against the motion and said she believes it should still continue to be part of facilities discussions, and considered it premature to reject the concept without knowing where the school community stands.

mandy.moraes@pqbnews.com

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