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New Jersey School District’s Network Infrastructure Is Upgraded Using ESSER Funds


The Willingboro Township Public School District serves over 3,700 K-12 students across eight schools in Willingboro Township, New Jersey. The district prides itself on integrating technology to enrich teaching and learning; however, its 8-year-old network infrastructure was now outdated, plagued by disruptions, and had inadequate capacity thresholds. When the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a rapid shift to an online educational format, these technology limitations became a critical roadblock to providing quality remote instruction.  

To overcome this challenge, the district launched an ambitious network upgrade initiative encompassing Wi-Fi enhancements, switch modernization, improved security, and scalability for future growth. Funded through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) monies, this project transformed the district’s network into a high-performance, reliable, secure foundation for technology-enhanced education. 

The Challenges 

Willingboro Township Public School District’s previous network infrastructure suffered from several deficiencies that hampered education, including: 

  • An outdated Ruckus Wi-Fi system with insufficient coverage and capacity
  • Dell and Cisco switches that were prone to failures and performance lags
  • Lack of redundancy resulting in frequent network disruptions and downtime
  • Low bandwidth, unable to support 1:1 student device programs and online learning
  • Minimal network access controls, segmentation, and security

These infrastructure limitations became more pronounced with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The abrupt shift to remote learning placed heavy demands on the network, resulting in frequent outages, slow speeds, and poor connectivity. Teachers struggled to deliver online lessons, and students grappled with network disruptions. Urgent infrastructure upgrades were imperative to enable effective remote instruction. 

The Solution and Implementation

The district launched a comprehensive network upgrade initiative to address these urgent needs with funding from ESSER. After exploring and vetting several technology providers to rapidly tailor and implement a solution, The Willingboro Township Public School District selected nationally recognized technology solutions provider Xtel Communications and security specialist Fortinet. Through a collaborative approach, Xtel and Fortinet designed and implemented network enhancements encompassing the following. 

  • Wi-Fi Network Enhancement 

The outdated Ruckus access points were replaced with modern, high-performance access points from Xtel. These access points provided better coverage, faster data transfer speeds, and improved support for the increasing number of devices. The upgraded Wi-Fi system featured improved bandwidth capacity, ensuring the network could handle the demands of simultaneous online learning and administrative tasks. 

  • Switch Infrastructure Modernization 

The eight-year-old Dell and Cisco switches were replaced with modern, high-capacity switches by Xtel. These switches supported Gigabit Ethernet and offered redundancy features to ensure network reliability. 

  • Firewall and Security Enhancements 

Implementing Fortinet’s advanced firewall solutions played a pivotal role in enhancing network security. These solutions offered intrusion detection and prevention, content filtering, and advanced threat protection. 

  • Scalability and Future-Proofing 

The upgraded infrastructure was designed with scalability in mind to easily accommodate additional devices should the district experience further growth. The district invested in technology that allowed them to integrate emerging educational technologies seamlessly into their network, ensuring they stay at the forefront of education. 

  • Monitoring and Control Tools 

The district implemented advanced network monitoring and management tools to monitor network performance and security closely. This proactive approach allowed them to identify and address issues before they impacted users.

The project was executed in stages throughout 2023, allowing for minimal disruptions to Willingboro students and staff. 

The Results

By implementing a robust, high-performance network, Willingboro School District removed technology barriers and created an enriched, technology-powered learning experience. The new infrastructure proved essential for enabling engaging online education throughout the pandemic. 

 The modernized network infrastructure delivered transformative results: 

  • Improved Learning Experience 

Students and teachers benefited from a more reliable and faster network, ensuring improved lesson delivery and uninterrupted online learning experiences. The elimination of network disruptions and slowdowns significantly improved the quality of education. 

  • Enhanced Administrative Efficiency 

The upgraded network also streamlined administrative tasks, making data transfer and resource access faster and more efficient, improving administrative staff productivity. 

  • Network Reliability 

With modern switches and redundant configurations, the network became more robust, significantly reducing downtime through redundancy and ensuring critical operations continued uninterrupted with enhanced bandwidth capacity to support 1:1 device programs. 

  • Security and Compliance 

The advanced firewall solutions from Fortinet bolstered network security, protecting sensitive data and ensuring compliance with privacy and security regulations via remote access. 

  • Long-Term Sustainability 

Investing in advanced technology, scalability, and ease of management ensures that the district’s network infrastructure is sustainable for the foreseeable future. 

  • Community Perception 

The district’s commitment to providing a technologically advanced learning environment bolstered its reputation and contributed to a positive community perception. 

Looking Ahead 

With a modern foundation now in place, Willingboro Township Public School District is positioned to continue integrating exciting new educational technologies. The flexible infrastructure integrates seamlessly with emerging cloud-based tools, keeping Willingboro at the forefront of 21st-century digital education. The district’s technology team also continues monitoring usage trends and network traffic patterns to identify areas for further optimization. With its future-focused network upgrade, Willingboro transformed technology from a barrier into a pathway for enriched, engaging education that empowers students’ success. 

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