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School District Adds Streaming Video System

The Metropolitan School District of Warren Township integrates a cost-effective video capture and distribution system on its fiber optic infrastructure.

CHALLENGE: Transition from a coax network onto fiber, and add streaming live video broadcasts and video- on-demand capabilities.

SOLUTION: Install an Ethernet-based system that can work with the school's Active Directory to distribute and capture video signals on the existing fiber infrastructure.

WHILE MANY K-12 school districts are just now getting up to speed with their AV technology infrastructures, districts like the Metropolitan School District (MSD) of Warren Township, IN, located east of Indianapolis, have set an example. With a history of strong IT leadership and technology adoption, the township's 12,550 K-12 students have access to AV technology and IT networks that rival corporate facilities.

Eight years ago, the school district installed its coax network using community resources. The MSD held an event called “Net Days,” which encouraged the 90,000 citizens in the township to help wire the schools — literally. “Most of the labor was provided by parents and people in the community,” says Brian Woods, director of network operations for MSD, whose responsibilities include keeping the network operational as well as the VoIP phone system in all 19 MSD buildings.

Three years later, the school district began its “Vision 2005” fundraising effort, which was designed to provide improvements and technology upgrades to several buildings. The effort was so successful that MSD partnered with Indiana Fiber Works to run fiber optic cable to all 19 buildings, and set up the main administrative building as the network operating center (NOC) for the district (see sidebar on page 22).

The network operations center (NOC) in the Metropolitan School District (MSD) in Warren Township, Ind., houses Cisco 6500 core routers, which distribute voice, data, and video communication to all 19 buildings in the district. It also includes 65 computer servers for management, an IBM NAS/SAN solution with approximately 5 Terabytes of storage, and a Nortel Succession 1000 VoIP phone switch that provides inbound and outbound calls to each building.

“The fiber infrastructure now carries all phone, video, and data signals,” Woods says. “We were previously on a fractional T1, but MSD Warren Township worked out a deal with Indiana Fiber Works for a ‘dark' fiber install. Dark fiber meant there was no service, so we could provide the 1 Gigabit Ethernet service to each building ourselves.”

The new fiber network also signaled the birth of the school district's video distribution system between its 11 elementary schools, three middle schools, and one high school.

Previously, schools only had AV carts. Vision 2005 financed the purchase of one Zenith 32-inch H32F46DT SVGA-resolution TV monitor for each classroom, which were networked to the head end via fiber.

Separately, MSD allocated portions of a $6 million grant from the Eli Lilly Endowment to provide TV studios in each school building, which are used for daily morning announcements and for students to develop their own movies. The movies are used to show parents and administrators the day-to-day activities of the student body.

Signal distribution

With the fiber optic network in place, the school district wanted to find a way to distribute its library of approximately 2,000 video titles and eliminate the need to manually deliver DVDs and VHS tapes from school to school.

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