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Tulsa schools to launch fiber optic link

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A single teacher will be able to hold class simultaneously in multiple Tulsa schools when a new system creating
"virtual classrooms" is complete, officials said Monday.

Construction is scheduled to begin Tuesday on 170 miles of fiber optic cable that will link Tulsa Public Schools' 20,000 computers.

The $16.4 million system is designed to accommodate whatever communications advances the next 25 years might bring, said Bob Sullivan, project director for Williams Communications Solutions, which won the bid to install the system.

"What we're putting in place today is enough capacity to handle all of the future information technology applications that can be made accessible to the Tulsa Public Schools district," he said.

A state Department of Education official hool districts.

Unlike the district's current network, the new system has bandwidth capable of handling interactive long-distance learning.

A Latin teacher at Washington High School, for example, can teach and answer questions from students participating in the class
via computer at Hale High School, said John Hamill, district spokesman.

The students will be able to log on to their computers and view the classes in session. They will be able to e-mail questions to the teacher.

"This allows us to provide equity and opportunity," he said.

The new system also will provide Internet and intranet services and give teachers a chance to participate in piped-in professional
development courses, limiting their time away from the classroom, district officials said.

The stringing of a fiber optic cable backbone on utility poles owned by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma is expected to be completed by next March.

The project is being funded by $6 million in bond funds and $10.5 million in financing, paid out in amounts of $1.5 million over 10 years, said Maia Maxwell Houston, a district spokeswoman.

That saves the district about $500,000 per year over current network fees, she said.

The difference between the capacity of the communications networks is "like having a garden hose versus a fire hose," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said organizations worldwide are facing the problem of dwindling bandwidth capacity. Tulsa Schools' approach is designed
for the long-term, he said.

"The way Tulsa has done it has been very visionary," he said.
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