Washington Connects All Public Schools

WASHINGTON (05/09/2000) - Washington has completed a high-speed Internet network connecting all public schools - from kindergarten through graduate school.

The Department of Information Services (DIS) finished connecting the state's 296 public school districts earlier this year. The network was established by the legislature in 1996, and debuted a year later when the state's public colleges were connected.

The state spent $54.8 million to build the network using state and private-sector infrastructure. The project was $6.6 million under budget.

The network allows hearing-impaired children to read and write using videoconferencing, high school students to take classes online to prepare for college, and community college graduates to earn a business degree online.

DIS spokesperson Eric Campbell said the department plans to expand the network.

However, the next phase established by the legislature, connecting all public libraries to the network, will not begin until next year because no money has been appropriated yet, he said. The department also intends to connect private colleges.

After the schools are connected to the network, they are responsible for providing hardware, software and any other equipment necessary to use the network.

The K-20 Network won a networking award last year from the National Association of State Information Resource Executives.