Historic Massachusetts School Enhances Safety with Cell Signal Booster Implementation
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Westford Academy in Westford, Massachusetts is one of the oldest public high schools in the United States. Established in 1793 as a private institution, the school opened enrollment for grades 9-12 to the general public in 1928. It maintained the "Academy" moniker because it retained the Westford Academy board of trustees, which would allow students to continue being eligible to receive scholarships.
In 1928 students and administrators couldn’t have imagined the hyper-connected world in which we’d live almost a century later. Fast-forward to 2018, however, and Westford is a tech leader, with businesses including IBM Network Services and Red Hat having major presences in the town.
For Westford Academy, however, ubiquitous cellular connectivity had eluded the historical institution. That was a problem for students, and concerned parents, who wanted to be able to contact their children during the school day, and to ensure that they’d be safe in the event of an emergency.
“Although we had flooded the building with Wi-Fi, the cell coverage was very poor,” said Mike Wells, director of technology.
In fact, Westford even established a dedicated Wi-Fi network for students, but that still did not improve the cell signal and connectivity issues that plagued the historical building. The lack of coverage was an issue for the school but also for the larger district in terms of school safety.
“We got pushback from parents that couldn’t contact children during school hours,” Wells explained.
Investing in school safety
Westford Academy endeavored to fix the problem and provide strong, reliable coverage throughout the building.
“This was a major investment with the primary goal of ensuring safety,” Wells said. Being able to notify and speak with police officers is especially vital in emergency situations, that are likely time sensitive.
Massachusetts law requires that a school must get quotes from a number of vendors, or use state-approved vendors, for major capital expenditures funded by taxpayer dollars.
To get approval for the project the school ultimately partnered with a local WilsonPro certified integrator, who introduced Westford Academy to the WilsonPro solution to improve connectivity, and therefore, student and staff safety throughout the building.
Getting Connectivity in the School
The project involved the installation of WilsonPro cellular amplifiers in order to boost signal throughout the building. WilsonPro cell signal boosters use a passive distributed antenna system (passive DAS) to capture existing strong cell signal from nearby outdoor towers. That signal is then amplified to improve connectivity throughout the building.
Westford Academy’s system was designed and installed by WilsonPro-certified integration partner Direct Network Services, from Littleton, Massachusetts.
“The architecture of the Wilson products made it possible to easily deviate from our original design when unanticipated obstacles that are common with older buildings were encountered,” noted Dan Kirkland, chief engineer for DNS. “The installation demonstrated that Wilson equipment could work well in a large and complex building that had multiple additions over the years.”
Results from the WilsonPro Solution
The WilsonPro cell signal amplifiers and antennas were installed over summer break, which caused no disruption to students in class.
Now the signal from the corridors is strong enough to get into all of the adjacent classrooms and WilsonPro also added dedicated units to boost signal in places including the school auditorium.
“Once it was live we noticed a significant improvement in signal straight away,” Wells said. “We tested everything to make sure we could get signal all around, and we did.”
WilsonPro cellular amplifiers take minimal time to install, are cost effective and boost signal for all carriers and devices. This allows all students, teachers and administrators to stay connected in emergency situations or to communicate with friends and family outside of the school.
For more information on how WilsonPro amplifiers can provide a cost-effective solution for improving cell signal within school buildings or other large spaces, contact WilsonPro today.