Two students at Freeman Elementary play a game in a computer lab (Courtesy of Flint Schools).

Flint, MI—Flint schools have been using outdated and unreliable technology for years, officials say—but that is about to change.

Last week, the district announced plans to invest $885,000 in a technology infrastructure overhaul to fix internet connectivity issues, modernize equipment, and streamline operations across buildings.

The project is part of Flint Schools’ plan to spend their $19 million COVID relief funds, federal dollars sent to school districts to mitigate financial burdens caused by the pandemic.

Vartek, the Flint Schools’ information technology service provider, will spearhead the update. Director of Customer Experience Jamie Martin and EdTech Leader Sam Jolley presented plans to board members during a meeting July 14.

“Currently, we know that there is a disparity in equity, internet access across the buildings, across the district. We know specifically a couple of buildings suffer a little bit more than others due to old equipment and lack of service agreements on that equipment,” Martin told board members.

Priorities include maximizing cybersecurity, a server reconfiguration, and choosing and installing software that will be used across all buildings.

To start, network installation company Fiber Link, which is contracted by the Genesee Intermediate School District, is locating and moving the district’s fiber hub—equipment that serves as a network’s mission control, so to speak.

The fiber hub sits in Flint Northern High School, a building that has been closed since 2014. The move will cost the district $9,000 dollars, Deputy Director of Finance Ayunna Dompreh told board members.

Vartek’s representatives said they anticipate completing the upgrades by Feb. 2022, after which they will perform a final analysis on the network and equipment.

“We want to make sure that scholars come back and have an environment that is optimal for teaching and learning,” Martin said.

Flint Board of Education Secretary Danielle Green said she wanted to ensure the money was being spent properly.

“I know we have to do some things to update and educate our children, but I want us to be careful not to go on a technology shopping spree,” Green said. “It’s a big number. So, we need to be careful and be sure this is what we need, not just because we have this money.”

Board President Carol McIntosh inquired if Vartek could incorporate solar technology to fuel the network. Martin said she would come back to the board with more information on the matter.

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...