Hampton, Unaka high schools go wireless

Photo by Dave Boyd
Hampton High School students make use of a new laptop computer lab in the school library. Hampton and Unaka High Schools were the final county high schools to obtain the labs through a partnership between CCSS and the Niswonger Foundation.

Laptop computer labs connect kids to the world

By Julie Fann
star staff
In a country where, during the 2000-01 academic year only 60 percent of classrooms in low-income communities were connected to the Internet, Carter County schools are going wireless.
This year, all four county high schools have mobile laptop computer labs with advanced educational software available for students and staff.
Hampton and Unaka High Schools each received 30 laptop computers in August, phase two in a program partnership the Carter County School System has with the Niswonger Foundation, a private sector funding initiative to assist rural school systems started by Scott Niswonger, CEO and chairman of Landair Corporation in Greeneville.
Cloudland and Happy Valley High Schools received the portable labs last year during phase one of the program.
"We were actually lucky because, when the technicians got the computers hooked up at Cloudland and Happy Valley, they had a lot of bugs and kinks in them they had to fix. So when they put ours in, we were almost up and running from the start," said Danny McClain, Hampton High School principal.
Teachers at Hampton High School attended an in-service approximately two weeks ago to learn the ins and outs of Plato, an educational software program designed to supplement the school curriculum.
"A few students started this week getting into the curriculum, but we haven't had any comments from them yet. Plato provides print outs on students that will give us feedback on how well they are performing," McClain said.
Through Niswonger, each county high school is equipped with Dell PowerEdge file servers, 30 laptop computers, Plato licenses, and Microsoft Office 2000 software and stipends for lab directors. The Carter County School System was responsible for installing multiple wireless hook-ups at each school.
The total amount of funding provided by the Niswonger Foundation for the project was $346,000.
Scott Niswonger developed the foundation approximately two years ago after working with then Gov. Don Sundquist on particular economic development projects. Niswonger became concerned that young people in the state aren't being prepared for 21st century jobs.
Since area school systems were in need and waiting on the state for limited funds, Niswonger started the foundation with $25 million.
The Niswonger Foundation has, so far, developed six partnerships in east Tennessee. It has helped bring instrumental music programs to Greene County schools and implemented vocational programs in Johnson County schools.