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Fiber optics, high-speed Internet comes to Mattituck schools

Mattituck High School AP Biology

Mattituck School District teachers no longer fear using online videos in their their lesson plans and students are now collaborating with fellow classmates on assignments with Google Chromebooks quicker than ever.

That’s because the district has replaced its residential cable modem — a system typically used in family homes — with a fiber optic network.

High school principal Shawn Petretti said the new high-speed Internet system, which was completed in October, gives teachers confidence to utilize technology inside the classroom.

Previously, teachers worried about videos or programs uploading during class because the district’s system was constantly overloaded.

“Teachers would become frustrated when web links or videos wouldn’t load,” Mr. Petretti said. “This project has removed a major hurdle because now they have the confidence to use technology that’s available.”

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday at the high school library, superintendent Anne Smith thanked several people for making the project come to fruition within a couple of months, including Lightpath and state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

From left, state Senator Ken LaValle and Mattituck school board president Laura Jens-Smith at Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)
From left, state Senator Ken LaValle and Mattituck school board president Laura Jens-Smith at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

“You can’t see this,” Dr. Smith explained, “but we can see opportunity to engage our students in new ways … Not only to engage in higher-level thinking, but actually to become those problem solvers we know we need in the collaborative world they’ll be living in.”

The senator, who secured $15,000 in grant monies for the nearly $280,000 fiber-optic project, described the new system as a critical component to 21st century education.

“You are to be congratulated,” he said. “I’m just a small part.”

Gerri Doherty, the district’s director of technology, said that since Mattituck is now capable of providing 100 megabytes per 1,000 students, the district is expected to receive $273,000 through the state’s Smart Schools Bond Act over the next few years.

Those funds will be used toward security features and upgrades to the district’s wireless infrastructure, particularly at the elementary school, she said.

“We now have high-speed Internet access throughout the district — it’s setting us up for the future,” Ms. Doherty said. “The need has become more demanding over the years. This was a big step for us.”

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Mr. LaValle toured the high school with district administrators to see how the high-speed Internet service is helping teachers and students.

In AP biology teacher Janine Ruland’s class, students were collaborating on a chromosomal abnormalities lab project using Chromebooks.

Students explained how the district’s new fiber optic system allows them to use Google software, such as Google Docs, more easily and instantaneously.

Ms. Ruland said the need for high-speed Internet is very important because students are learning and collaborating with each other on devices more so than meeting in a group with pens and notebooks.

“When we were younger, we had to physically meet up at one location to work on a document,” she said. “Those days are long gone.”

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Top photo: Mattituck High School AP biology students use Chromebooks to work collaboratively on assignments. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)