Olathe Public Schools
Kansas City School District Embraces IoT and Paves Way for 1:1 in Over 50 Schools

Challenges

  • Deploy enterprise-grade Wi-Fi solution to accommodate over 29,000 students across more than 50 schools and support 1:1 initiative
  • Establish secure solution for guests away from open BYOD network
  • Accommodate increased adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) and greater density

Results

  • Aerohive solution using Private Pre-Shared Key creates efficient network management
  • Aerohive access points managed from single pane of glass without having to travel to schools for new configurations, upgrades, or adding APs
  • Entire district poised to integrate technology instruction and innovative applications at all grade levels

Kansas City School District Embraces IoT and Paves Way for 1:1 in Over 50 Schools

About Olathe Public Schools

Serving the greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area, Olathe Public Schools is the second largest and fastest-growing district in the state. With a budget of over $230M, the district is home to 35 elementary schools, nine middle schools, and four high schools, with plans for a new high school to open in the coming year.

In addition to these schools, the district has 21 support facilities throughout the area to support more than 29,000 students and over 4,000 staff. The district has received numerous awards in the last several years including schools and teachers being recognized for the 2016 Exemplary Middle School by the Kansas Association of Middle School Administrators, the 2016 Whelan Kansas Leadership for Learning Award, and four 2016 Governor’s Achievement Awards.

The Challenge

Olathe Public Schools first deployed a Wi-Fi network back as early as 2004, installing 3Com access points in school libraries before wireless was in high demand. After several years with 3Com, the IT team implemented a Trapeze network to accommodate changes and growing demand at the school. Several years ago, the District began having issues with reliability, which coincided with a 1:1 implementation across many schools, forcing Olathe to look at new enterprise-grade wireless solutions to accommodate density and seamless network management, as well as upgrade to 802.11ac technology across all schools.

The IT team set up a bake off with solutions from Aerohive, Aruba, Meraki, and Ruckus at some of the oldest elementary schools in the district. In 2014, Olathe had many drivers for needing a rock-solid comprehensive wireless solution. All 35 elementary schools were set to deploy 1:2 iPads for every classroom, middle schools moved to 1:1 ratios and high schools will soon migrate from notebooks and iPads and issue MacBooks to every student over the next 18 months. All classrooms are also equipped with Apple TVs and other smart technology devices. Above all, Olathe Public Schools needed a solution that was easy to manage across the entire network, including upgrades, configurations and seamless management for more than 22,000 devices on the network.

Solution

Following the evaluations and pilot tests, Aerohive came out on top for performance and reliability, as well as offering an intuitive and intelligent network management system. Working with Aerohive reseller Aercor Wireless, Olathe moved forward to deploy Aerohive across all schools and throughout the entire district.

Jay Merkle, Wireless Network Engineer for Olathe Public Schools, worked throughout the summer to upgrade and deploy Aerohive across all schools within two months. “Our team reimaged over 6,000 devices and migrated more than 1,800 access points to bring network improvements, upgrades, construction planning for new schools that will open, as well as advancing new opportunities for supporting technology in the classroom.”

Olathe did the install in-house and chose Aerohive AP230 access points, and will soon install AP245X, AP250 and AP550 access points as the deployment expands and new schools open. At the time of the initial deployment, Jay and his team used the Aerohive mapping tools to do a walk-through at each school and administrative building to maximize access point placement.

While the district at first used Aerohive’s Bonjour Gateway for Apple device management, now the IT team is on-boarding every user and device with Aerohive’s Private Pre-Shared Key (PPSK) technology. Olathe has successfully on-boarded an initial group of users, with plans to on-board over 22,000 users into HiveManager NG using PPSK by the end of summer, creating unique pre-shared keys for users on the same SSID. This solution is ideal for a district of this size, as well as for a 1:1 school environment where BYOD is not as critical.

“PPSK is especially ideal for environments like Olathe Public Schools that are embracing IoT since complex configuration is not required and support is extended even for devices where 802.1X may not, providing greater security for our schools,” explains Merkle. Olathe has several thermostats on the wireless network and other devices such as blood sugar monitors for certain students that automatically send reports to school nurses. Other departments, such as the district TV studio, may have needs to request PPSK as more operations eventually move to wireless devices.

Olathe is currently using CloudPath to on-board users for guest login onto Aerohive’s enterprise-grade Wi-Fi solution, providing the required enterprise features and interoperability for the district. Soon, guests and users requiring BYOD will be routed by PPSK to a separate SSID with captive web portal for optimal security and firewall management.

“We knew we needed a wireless solution to handle an incredible load as we moved toward a 1:1 environment in Olathe Public Schools,” explains Merkle. “What we did not anticipate as we evaluated Aerohive was being able to connect over 70 devices streaming YouTube to one access point in a classroom with cinder block walls.

The performance was incredible and when you add in the versatile features like PPSK that allow for seamless on-boarding of thousands of devices at once with active directory integration, it was a sealed deal.”

Results

Olathe Public Schools have experienced tremendous growth and change in the last several years. Besides building a new high school and several other schools, the IT team has transitioned students to new devices like Windows devices, MacBooks, iPads and Mac minis. Teachers and administrators are equipped with Wi-Fi to integrate technology into the classroom. There is really no part of any curriculum or classroom that is not leveraging Aerohive for efficiency or blended learning.

Students use educational tools such as Google Classroom and Edmodo, as well as a host of other applications. Teachers and administrators can take attendance wirelessly, even printing out tardy slips from wireless printing devices. Recently several middle schools collaborated on a STEM project creating wind turbines, using wireless probe devices to test and problem solve the designs. The students used iPads to Skype and collaborate via Google Docs on blade design and other aspects of their projects.

The majority of schools in the district have moved 85% of all devices and operations to the wireless network, including state testing administered at most schools over iPads and staggered in phases. The IT team manages almost 50 schools in the district across a geographic radius of 75 miles. Having Aerohive’s enterprise-grade wireless solution in place has created efficiency for the IT team, who can now hand off new pre-configured access points for installation without having to travel to schools. The HiveManager NG dashboard and reporting tools have also accelerated resolution of troubleshooting problems and targeting specific user issues.

Wi-Fi Leads the Way

Olathe Public Schools will continue to expand and advance its technology initiatives, including integrating many STEM programs and administrative operations onto the Aerohive network. By expanding the Wi-Fi network to allow more schools to adopt 1:1 and blended instruction, Olathe students and teachers are set to embrace future technologies.

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