Debate over school Wi-Fi reignites

Debate over allowing wireless Internet into Greater Victoria schools will take centre stage again after a year-and-a-half hiatus.

Debate over allowing wireless Internet into Greater Victoria schools will take centre stage again after a year-and-a-half hiatus.

The district’s Wi-Fi committee, established in January 2011 to investigate parental concerns over alleged health affects linked to wireless Internet in schools, will meet Wednesday night (Oct. 17).

The committee plans to review any new information regarding the technology that was submitted between May 2011 and this month. It doesn’t plan on making a ruling yet on allowing Wi-Fi into schools.

“There is no question on the table that says ‘should we or should we not?’” said Pat Duncan, associate superintendent and committee chair.

“People seem to think that there’s a predetermined outcome, that: ‘The school board is putting Wi-Fi in schools,’” added Peg Orcherton, chair of the Greater Victoria board of education. “The determination as to what would happen hasn’t been made.”

All high schools and one elementary school in the district have Wi-Fi, but the technology hasn’t been installed in any other schools since the committee was struck.

The committee set a deadline of Oct. 9 to collect new information for review. A small but vocal group of people opposed to Wi-Fi have submitted about 30 items for review, Duncan said, in addition to nearly 200 website addresses, which did not contain new information.

Committee member and board trustee Diane McNally, an outspoken opponent of Wi-Fi in schools, has brought forward her concerns not only regarding the safety technology, but also the way in which the committee was formed, with Duncan having taken over for previously appointed chair, former secretary-treasurer George Ambeault.

“I don’t understand why we’re meeting for no purpose,” McNally said. “The fact that there’s a meeting going to be held, to me would imply there’ll be a reconsideration. I question the whole legitimacy of the committee.”

Orcherton said she has empathy for those on both sides of the emotional issue.

“We have a mission statement to keep our children safe,” she said. “Having said that we live in a huge world full of new technology.”

The meeting is from 5 until 7 p.m. at the Greater Victoria board of education office, 556 Boleskine Rd.

nnorth@saanichnews.com