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updated: 1/12/2012 4:49 PM

Stevenson High considering switch to cloud-based email system

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  • Video: Google Apps for Education


Stevenson High School officials are considering switching to a new email system that should improve communications for staffers and students.

The Google system, part of the company's Apps for Education effort, will be a cloud-based system that won't rely on Stevenson's physical computer network to operate, school spokesman Jim Conrey said.

The current system, FirstClass, is dependent on Stevenson's network and has been criticized as cumbersome and difficult to access from off campus, Conrey said.

The FirstClass system also is only available for Apple and Blackberry mobile devices, he said. Google isn't limited that way.

"As the district begins to use more mobile devices, we would be held back if (we stay) with FirstClass," Conrey said.

The Google system is free to use, Conrey said, but Stevenson would pay a $6,600 annual fee for archiving.

A one-time charge of $70,000 is needed to modify the school's phone system to allow voice mails and emails to integrate, too.

Using FirstClass costs the school $32,000 annually. In the long run, Stevenson will save money by going with Google, Conrey said.

"Making this switch will pay for itself within three years, and we'll see enormous benefits right away in terms of access and storage capability," Conrey said in an email. "We'll save a lot of man hours just in server maintenance, and (we) won't have to worry about network outages and other connectivity problems."

Although all existing Stevenson email accounts for employees and students will be converted to Google gmail accounts, the email addresses will not change. They will continue to follow the "" template.

The Google system is free of advertising, and no personal information is shared with marketers, Conrey said.

Other area school districts using the Apps for Education programs include Kildeer-Countryside District 96, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and Maine Township High School District 207, Conrey said. Universities using the system include Northwestern, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt.

A District 125 technology task force discussed the email service and other issues in the fall and recommended the change.

The District 125 school board reviewed the proposal at a meeting this week. It could approve the switch Feb. 13.

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