The WiFi contract issue: catching up

In case you’re catching up, a few odds and ends on the WiFi contract beat:

Changing numbers. In case you missed this from our Friday story, the Education Department is revising its estimate on how many schools can qualify for state-funded WiFi service.

About 249 high schools and junior high schools are eligible for the service, Education Department spokeswoman Melissa McGrath said late Friday afternoon.

That differs from what the Education Department said in its own May 29 request for proposals from bidders, which lists 333 schools that may qualify. Why the discrepancy? The RFP also lists middle schools, which are not eligible for the contract — only schools with ninth- through 12th-graders are eligible for the WiFi service.

More changing numbers. The state won’t know how many schools will receive the WiFi service. That won’t be determined until site visits, which start next week.

But the state is estimating that about 200 schools will participate. That’s about an 80 percent opt-in rate, based on the newest estimate of eligible schools. Initial news accounts — based on the state’s initial figure of 333 eligible schools — pegged the opt-in rate at a much lower 60 percent rate.

Waiting on records. Idaho Education News has public records requests filed for the unsuccessful contract bids — as well as the “scoring documents” explaining the review committee’s decision to award the contract to Nashville, Tenn.-based Education Networks of America. We filed the records request on July 25. Under state law, the deadline for the state to release records is Thursday, 10 working days after the request. Stay tuned.

More reading. A good weekend package on the WiFi contract from the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell: a professor and an national IT management expert calls Idaho’s contract a bad deal; two unsuccessful Idaho bidders question the contract process; and two school IT directors who reviewed the bids explain the process.

Background from last week. Why the Boise School District joined the WiFi network; and what Gov. Butch Otter had to say about the deal.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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